IN THE MATTER OF: R. MARK KEATON, Respondent
Attorney Discipline Action. Hearing Officer Susan B. Eisenhauer.
R. Mark Keaton, RESPONDENT, Pro se.
ATTORNEYS FOR THE INDIANA SUPREME COURT DISCIPLINARY COMMISSION: G. Michael Witte, Executive Secretary, David B. Hughes, Staff Attorney, Allison Southgate Avery, Staff Attorney, Indianapolis, Indiana.
All Justices concur.
We find that Respondent, R. Mark Keaton, committed attorney misconduct by, among other things, engaging in an extreme and pervasive pattern of conduct involving harassment and dishonesty. For this misconduct, we conclude that Respondent should be disbarred.
This matter is before the Court on the report of the hearing officer appointed by this Court to hear evidence on the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission's " Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action," and on the post-hearing briefing by the parties. Respondent's 1998 admission to this state's bar subjects him to this Court's disciplinary jurisdiction. See Ind. Const. art. 7, § 4.
Procedural Background and Facts
The Commission filed a three-count " Verified Complaint for Disciplinary Action" against Respondent on February 4, 2013. The hearing officer filed her report on September 12, 2014, which we now adopt and summarize.
Conduct involving " JD" (Count 1). In 2005, Respondent -- who at the time was 41 years old, married, and lived in Fort Wayne -- began an intimate relationship with JD, who at the time was a sophomore at Indiana University and the roommate of Respondent's daughter. Respondent and JD maintained a tempestuous long-distance relationship until March 2008, when JD permanently ended the relationship.
During the ensuing four months, Respondent left numerous voicemails for JD, 90 of which were recorded and preserved by JD. And from March 2008 through April 2010, at least 7,199 emails were exchanged between Respondent and JD, the vast majority sent by Respondent. Both Respondent's oral and written communications to JD were threatening, abusive, and highly manipulative in nature.
One form of leverage over JD exploited by Respondent was financial. Respondent had borrowed about $8,000 from JD during their relationship, and JD needed this money repaid for her educational expenses.
For several months after their break-up Respondent endeavored to condition repayment on JD's agreement to communicate and meet with him. Respondent eventually repaid the money in September 2008, apparently believing that JD would respond the way he had hoped. When she did not, Respondent quickly sent a series of threatening emails within mere moments of one another, writing among other things that " This is a very dangerous situation. You have no idea. Telephone me immediately" ; " You do not have class at noon. If you f*** with me this time, it will be the last time. Do you understand?" ; and " Okay. Because you have chosen to ignore me, the worst will now happen. The worst. You have until 12:30 to telephone me."
On other occasions, Respondent threatened suicide unless JD would yield to his demands. For example, he wrote JD in one email that " I'm leaving the house for the roof. You must call and stop me or I'm gone. These emails will persist and everyone will find them and know you didn't call." In another email, Respondent wrote " I will kill myself tonight if I get one more instance of cruelty or indifference from you. I will do it. I have had enough. This is sick. So, I am asking you to drop the cruelty and indifference and engage in a rational caring exchange with me. Are you going to or not?"
Even more perniciously, Respondent threatened to publicly disseminate explicit photographs of JD taken during their relationship, and to contact JD's family, friends, acquaintances, and other third parties regarding Respondent's accusations that JD was a " whore" or a " slut" and that she suffered from mental illness and psychosis. For example, in one voicemail message Respondent told JD, " What a f***ing whore. You've got exactly two f***ing minutes to email me or call me. Or. these 10 f***ing emails are f***ing going. (laugh) I'm not f***ing kidding you. . . . You're f***ing scum. But I'll tell you right now I'm gonna hit the f***ing g****** send button. And and and you don't even know which 10 people it's to. And there're f***ing 6 pictures in each f***ing email." In another voicemail, Respondent demanded to JD, " Return my call. If I don't hear from you by midnight, you will regret you ever f***ing met me. Every day of your life will be a f***ing living hell. I will ruin your life. . . . I will f***ing wreak nothing but hatred on you every day of your life for the rest of your life if my phone does not ring by midnight. . . . You will be embarrassed every f***ing time you turn around. . . . I have every f***ing email of every person who was accepted at IU in the incoming class, it's posted on the f***ing site. I have tracked down their f***ing emails. I will destroy your m*********ing life, you f***er."
Unfortunately, Respondent repeatedly carried out these latter categories of threats, both through emails to others and through postings on various adult-oriented websites. Respondent frequently taunted JD afterwards. In one such instance, in April 2008, Respondent wrote to JD, " Just so you know, they've been up on one site since March 1, when you started this s***. 151 pictures to date; 209,748 hits! . . . The site permits people to mark their favorites and everyone loves you." Respondent
added, " [You s]hould have realized that I was the best thing that ever happened to you. . . . Now, I'm through with you except for the joy I will take in revenge." In another, Respondent offered to take down some of the pictures he had posted if JD would call him immediately and admit to her alleged mental illness, but warned she only had a few minutes to do so because " I will be in court all day and out after that. I can get back to my computer at any time, but I have no intention to do so unless I hear from you . . . under my terms."
Additionally, Respondent has maintained and published for several years a blog about JD that identifies her by name and includes disparaging diatribes about her and explicit photographs of her. Respondent does not identify himself or include any pictures of himself in this blog. Even to this day, Respondent has refused to part with the blog and ...