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Missouri attorney seen on video groping clients avoids disbarment

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court decided Tuesday not to disbar a defense attorney, who was caught on video groping six clients in a jail interview room, in a courthouse and while behind the wheel.

The 4-3 ruling to indefinitely suspend 86-year-old Dan Purdy will allow him to apply for reinstatement after a year. A disciplinary hearing panel had recommended disbarment for the attorney, and Judge Zel Fischer blasted the majority’s decision in his dissent.

“There may have been a time when a temporary suspension was an adequate punishment for sexually assaulting or harassing a client, vulnerable or otherwise,” Fischer wrote. “But,” he added, “in my view, that time is long gone.”

In the majority ruling, Judge George Draper acknowledged Purdy, who is based in Osceola, Missouri, had committed the assaults and severely faulted him for his conduct.

Video provided by the Vernon County Sheriff’s Office showed Purdy making sexual advances in September 2020 toward four women in a jail interview room. The women later told officers that the touching and kissing was unwanted.

In March 2021, he was seen on video touching a clients’ buttocks in a St. Clair County courtroom, although the client said in an affidavit that she believed Purdy didn’t touch her inappropriately, according to the opinion.

Later that year, a client used her phone to record Purdy reach across the seat and touch her breast under her blouse as he was driving her in his vehicle. That client said the sexual contact was unwanted, the opinion said.

Draper wrote that Purdy, whose law license had already been suspended on an interim basis since December 2021, “fails to grasp the severity of his conduct or these charges.”

But Draper added that the discipline is consistent with what the court has issued in response to past sexual misconduct by lawyers. And he noted the discipline is more severe than Purdy’s request that the court allow him to apply for reinstatement after six months.

In his dissent, Fischer wrote that age shouldn’t be taken into consideration when determining appropriate punishment. The decision, Fischer said, made him “deeply distressed.”

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