Johnny Manziel's Lawyer Accidentally Texts The AP And Then Threatens To Sue Them If They Report On It

from the err-and-err-and-err dept

It's become common game by many in America and elsewhere to crap on lawyers whenever the opportunity presents itself. This is done unfairly in many cases, with a lack of understanding of what the adversarial nature of our legal system requires of legal advocates. For instance, a lawyer that strongly advocates for a client accused of something terrible isn't himself or herself terrible. That's the duty of the job.

But for one of the lawyers on the staff of Johnny Manziel, the seemingly troubled and frequent guest of the court who was once primarily known as a football player, it appears both that proper lawyer-ing is a bit more difficult than for most and that he's a bully to boot. As you may have heard, Bob Hinton, who had been tasked with representing Manziel in his domestic abuse court case, accidentally texted the Associated Press information about his attempts to settle the case in a rather unfavorable light with respect to his client.

An attorney handling Johnny Manziel's domestic violence case expressed doubts about the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback's ability to stay clean and said he was given a receipt that shows Manziel may have spent more than $1,000 at a drug paraphernalia store just 15 hours after he was involved in a hit-and-run crash, according to a lengthy text message accidentally sent to The Associated Press. Defense attorney Bob Hinton's text indicated Manziel's legal team was seeking a plea deal with prosecutors, but suggested that could be tricky.

"Heaven help us if one of the conditions is to pee in a bottle," the attorney wrote.

This oops-text happened after the AP had apparently sent Hinton a text message requesting comment about a hit-and-run accident that Manziel was reportedly involved in (Manziel claims to be the victim of the accident). Hinton had meant to text what he sent to the AP to co-counsel. The communication also included information about a smoke-shop receipt that may have indicated that Manziel had been purchasing synthetic marijuana, a fact not useful for the defense team of a high-profile individual with well-covered run-ins involving substance abuse. To accidentally text that information to the Associated Press has to be one of the best examples of what not to do as an attorney for such an individual.

But the really face-palm-inducing move by Hinton was to then threaten to sue the AP if it did any reporting around that text message.

When asked about the text, Hinton said he had meant to send it to co-counsel Jim Darnell and was unaware the AP had received it instead. He insisted the contents were protected by attorney-client privilege and threatened to sue if certain details were published.

I guess we'll get to take the measure of that threat, as the AP most certainly did report on not only the text, but the subsequent threat as well. Such threats are unlikely to ingratiate a lawyer to the press and, while I won't say the AP reported because of the threat, it seems like the added threat has given the story some extra flavor, propelling it Streisand-style into wider coverage.

And, not surprisingly, others are now reporting that Hinton has been booted from Manziel's legal staff as a result. Not a good day for the counselor, I think. The mistake was bad enough, but the attempted cover-up, as always, ends up doing more harm.


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  • icon
    DB (profile), 30 Jun 2016 @ 4:56pm

    Hmmm, the only reasonable way to handle that was to leave open the possibility that it was a spoofed/hacked message.

    Threatening to sue is pretty much saying "we confirm that message came from us and we confirm that it is really damaging".

    You have to have really powerful high-level connections to kill a story (like being a Vegas big-wig that can just buy the newspaper) and even then it doesn't work if a competing outlet has the story as well (viz Las Vegas newspapers).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 30 Jun 2016 @ 5:25pm

    Dong saya dae

    It's become common game by many in America and elsewhere to crap on lawyers whenever the opportunity presents itself.


    They sure go out of their way to create opportunities.

    It's partly, but not by any means entirely, a game. Lawyers, in their legal capacity and in other realms to which they are endemic (such as politics) or where they choose to branch out, as an industry, have made themselves a target for a good squat now and then. Unfortunately, it has little effect. Poor lawyers. They are an entrenched and self-growing profession, like a bad bureaucracy, by their own choices, and the failure to police their peers even according to their own rules.

    Sure, defense attorneys take some extra crap simply by doing their job, especially in an environment where law enforcement behaves as it does, and the way public perception behaves, as well as the way prosecutors and judges (lawyers) behave. Mounting a vigorous defense does not, however, require being a completely disgusting shitbag playing games with things that shouldn't be open for discussion or consideration by anyone when judging the facts or relative merits of opposing claims.

    There are plenty of good lawyers, but like with anything, there are far too many of them to be statistically all that good. And no, no one should be undeservedly crapped on just for doing their job. For fulfilling their mandate. But stop letting jerks get away with poor behavior using that as an excuse, because sustained objections mean practically nothing, and that behavior tends to reflect on the profession as a whole. Never minding ridiculous things that happen in corporate, IP, and other interesting arenas, the legal opinions of what some part of the government might technically be able to get away with in secret, and the practices of so many prosecutors, as well as the sheer race for bad ideas exhibited by our legislative bodies and their lobbies, which are just packed with lawyers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 30 Jun 2016 @ 6:47pm

    Who's high?

    "'Heaven help us if one of the conditions is to pee in a bottle,' the attorney wrote."

    Apparently he was referring to himself...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Jul 2016 @ 3:44am

    Imagine a system that when a lawyer did something stupid, and then tried baseless legal bluster to cover it up would send the lawyer back to classes explaining the law & then after successful completion they could reapply to the bar.

    Far to often these things get overlooked in what seems to be an idiotic effort to protect the image of the system by protecting a broken piece (seems familiar) rather than bitchslapping them down for overreach. How many more of these stories do there need to be before they understand that the system of looking away draws more mocking of the system and damages the image of the system even further?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Vidiot (profile), 1 Jul 2016 @ 4:54am

    Wasn't too long ago that law firms would refuse to communicate about cases via email... period. Non-negotiable. Those days have passed, but really, legal strategies via SMS?

    It's kinda like that disclaimer they used to print on fax cover sheets... "This message is for the intended recipient only. If received in error, you must immediately destroy."

    Sure. No problem.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2016 @ 8:31am

    Sending to wrong address is a non-issue

    After all, the sender encrypted it to the recipient's public key, so anyone else who accidentally got a copy would be unable to read it. Wait, what do you mean these people are sending confidential information over an unencrypted channel automatically logged by third parties? No one could be that careless.

    /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jul 2016 @ 8:40am

    I'd say the moral of the story is never give the press your cellphone number. You can't accidentally text the press when they can't contact you on your cell phone at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 1 Jul 2016 @ 10:21am

      Re:

      The problem here doesn't seem to be that he gave his number to the press. Someone having your number doesn't make it any easier to accidentally text them.

      The problem is more likely that he had the this reporter in his phonebook or recent call history.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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