Ira Mayo (An earlier version of this story included a photo of an incorrect lawyer.) ()
Earlier this summer, Torrington attorney Ira Mayo made headlines when he was hit with an unusual punishment: he could never again represent female clients.
At the same time, Mayo also received a four-month license suspension, scheduled to start Oct. 1, for violating a 2010 judge’s order to not represent women in domestic violence and family law cases. Some women’s groups thought the punishment should have been more severe, given the long history of complaints involving Mayo’s conduct with female clients.
Now those critics might get their wish. For the second time in two months, Connecticut’s Office of the Disciplinary Counsel is seeking to disbar the solo attorney. That motion coincides with emerging details about a now-closed State Police investigation into allegations that Mayo made inappropriate sexual overtures to at least two clients. A law enforcement official who requested anonymity said the 2009 investigation was handled by the state’s Western District Major Crime Squad, but no charges were ever filed against Mayo.
Last week, State Police declined to release details of the investigation, claiming the allegations were never corroborated and are exempt from disclosure under the state Freedom of Information Act. Meanwhile, a Sept. 8 hearing has been scheduled on the disbarment motion. At issue will be whether Mayo has already violated a July 2 court order that banned him from “formally or informally” representing women for the rest of his legal career. In a motion for disbarment filed Aug. 6, the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel stated that Mayo told a Bantam Superior Court judge during a July 30 court proceeding that he planned to file an appearance in the case of a woman charged with misdemeanor larceny.
The disciplinary counsel’s office originally sought to have Mayo disbarred after he admitted violating a past court order by representing at least 11 women in domestic violence and family law cases since 2010. But state officials settled for the four-month suspension and the female client ban, which was hammered out by Mayo’s attorney, Rick Richardson, and Desi Imetovski, an attorney in the state’s Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel.
Mayo’s alleged misconduct with women dates to at least 2005, when his bar license was suspended for 15 months for making unwanted sexual advances toward clients who were referred to him by Torrington’s Susan B. Anthony Project for abused women.
As for the 2009 investigation, the Law Tribune has learned that State Police looked into Mayo’s relationship with Tara Wilbur, who told police she met the lawyer in the summer of 2008, shortly after she turned 18. Mayo represented Wilbur and her former boyfriend in separate criminal matters. Wilbur described to State Police graphic comments and propositions that Mayo allegedly made to her when the two were alone in his office. She never filed a grievance against Mayo, but reportedly told police that Mayo “wanted to prey on a barely 18-year-old girl.”
In turn, Mayo told police Wilbur was trying to blackmail him into paying her $3,000 bail bond after she was arrested for selling heroin in Torrington. Mayo said he was concerned Wilbur would “make up a lie” about him because she knew about his past problems with women.
Details about the other woman who was the focus of the 2009 investigation were unavailable.
Mayo, who did not return calls seeking comment for this article, said in a text message he was “not aware of” a police investigation from 2009. In the past, Mayo has said he has undergone counseling to address his issues of interacting with female clients. “Do I think I have a problem with women?” he told the Law Tribune in August. “I think I need to be cautious around women—careful how I talk and act around them.”
Neither Mayo’s attorney nor David Shepack, state’s attorney for the Litchfield Judicial District, would comment on any aspect of the 2009 investigation. The Litchfield prosecutor’s office would have had to sign off on an arrest warrant application for Mayo.
More recent complaints against Mayo touch on the same themes. In 2011, Mayo represented burglary suspect Vincent Palmesi. But, according to the client, the attorney focused most of his attention on Palmesi’s mother, Adonica Hubert.
Hubert told the Law Tribune that Mayo couldn’t “control” himself around her. According to Hubert, the lawyer said she “owed” him a massage and a ride on her Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which she planned to sell so she could pay her son’s attorney fees. Hubert also said while the two were standing outside of court during a recess of jury selection for her son’s trial, Mayo told her there would be “no kissing today” on learning Hubert had spent most of the night before throwing up because of a stomach ache.
“My son is facing how many years and he’s talking about this,” Hubert said. “He’s just a very sick man.”
Palmesi filed a grievance alleging poor representation. State officials found no probable cause to sanction Mayo for that complaint.
Hubert filed a separate grievance over the alleged comments. The Litchfield Judicial District Grievance Panel found probable cause in January 2013 that Mayo violated Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4, which focuses on maintaining the integrity of the profession. Attorney Gail Kotowski, of the Litchfield Judicial District Grievance Panel, noted in a letter that Mayo’s reputation played a role in the panel finding Hubert’s grievance “credible.”
According to documents, Mayo called the accusations “wildly untrue,” but admitted telling Hubert she looked like a massage therapist. He denied asking for a rubdown and called the motorcycle accusation “extremely offensive,” saying he is “deathly” afraid of motorcycles after a family member died in a crash years ago.
Mayo told authorities the mother and son grievances were nothing more than retribution following Palmesi’s conviction. Still, Mayo agreed to pay expenses for a three-credit course on legal ethics. In exchange, the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel dismissed Hubert’s grievance.
Another woman that Mayo represented, Leah Castro, filed a grievance earlier this year. She claimed Mayo propositioned her for sex in exchange for representing her in a domestic violence case. Castro ended up pleading guilty to third-degree assault and received a two-year conditional discharge. Castro’s complaint was among those that led disciplinary officials to consider pushing for Mayo’s disbarment. But state officials settled for the four-month suspension and the ban on women clients, in part, they said, because they were having trouble locating Castro to testify at hearings.
While waiting for his most recent suspension to kick in, Mayo was supposed to help ensure a smooth transition for the trustee who is being appointed to take over his 100 cases. He was not supposed to add new female clients.
But according to a court transcript from July 30, Mayo told Judge Richard Marano he planned to file an appearance on Jessica Policastro’s behalf in her larceny case, in addition to an application for accelerated rehabilitation. He also asked for a continuance of the Bantam case, to Sept. 5. Imetovski, of the disciplinary counsel’s office, pointed to the exchange as “evidence” that Mayo intended to represent the woman in future proceedings. She declined further comment.
When interviewed in August, Mayo downplayed the accusations that he continued to represent female domestic violence and family law clients even after the 2010 court order. He said the license suspension was based on a “technical violation” of the order, caused by Mayo misunderstanding of the restrictions.
“I’ll survive; it’s four months,” he said of the suspension. “I made the mistake of a bad choice. It could have been a lot worse. I’m dealing with the consequences and hopefully I’ll move on from there.”