MIDDLETOWN, Connecticut — Faced with allegations that he engaged in “sexual horseplay” with female clients and a lawsuit that accuses him of accepting sex for legal fees, a Torrington lawyer agreed Friday to a 15-month suspension of his law license.
Ira S. Mayo, 40, did not offer a defense to the allegations during a hearing in Superior Court. One of his four accusers sat in the courtroom gallery, but also declined to testify before the judge.
Mayo’s suspension follows recent findings by statewide grievance committee panels, which discipline lawyers, of probable cause that Mayo had violated rules that govern the conduct of lawyers.
Since 2003, Mayo, who joined the Connecticut Bar Association in May 1999, has been the subject of four complaints from clients he worked with in divorce and criminal cases.
In September 2003, a woman accused Mayo of “unwarranted sexual advances” while he represented her in a criminal case, according to statewide grievance committee reports.
She was having financial difficulties, and Mayo told her that “with regard to fees owed for legal work, she could `work off’ the fees,” the grievance committee reports state.
In separate complaints filed in March 2004 and July 2005, two other women alleged Mayo had improper relationships with them that involved “sexual horseplay,” committee reports say.
In August 2005, a male client accused Mayo of not being fair and impartial during the mediation of a divorce settlement. The man said Mayo pressured him into taking an unfavorable settlement, committee reports state.
Mayo “has admitted to certain of the facts” in these cases, according to court papers.
After he serves the 15-month suspension, Mayo will not be reinstated automatically.
He has been ordered to seek mental health treatment at his own expense. Judge Robert L. Holzberg, who approved the punishment agreement Friday, will monitor Mayo’s medical reports to determine when he can practice law again.
Holzberg called the complaints against Mayo an “embarrassment” to lawyers.
“You belong to a proud and noble profession,” Holzberg told Mayo. “We have an obligation to conduct our professional, public and private lives in a way that conforms to the highest tradition of the bar. It appears you have not upheld that fine and long tradition.”
Once Mayo returns to practicing law, he will continue to be monitored for two years by the disciplinary counsel. Mayo also has been ordered to write letters of apology to the complainants, to “direct his practice away from the representation of women in domestic relations matters” and to have an office policy that prevents “his being alone, or in confined quarters, with women at any times,” the agreement states.
“This has been a long and difficult road not only for my client but for the complainants,” said Mayo’s attorney, Michael A. Fasano. He called the suspension agreement “the road for a better life to come.”
Patricia A. King, assistant disciplinary counsel, said she was satisfied with Mayo’s punishment.
“Our office takes complaints like this very seriously,” King said. “Attorneys can get immune to the kind of trust that clients put in us. When that trust is betrayed, it can have serious consequences.”
Mayo also faces a pending lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Hartford by one of his accusers, identified as “Jane Doe.”
The woman is also suing the Torrington law firm where Mayo practiced, Febbroriello, Conti & Levy. Mayo is no longer with the firm.