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Unwanted sexual advances made toward battered women who turned to Torrington, Conn., solo Ira S. Mayo for legal representation have led to Mayo’s 15-month suspension from practicing law, as well as a heavy dose of judicial scorn. In meting out discipline Sept. 30, Middlesex Superior Court Judge Robert L. Holzberg characterized Mayo’s misconduct as an embarrassment to the legal profession. The sanction stains what began as a promising career. Admitted to the bar in 1999, Mayo was selected as a 2003 Connecticut Bar Association Distinguished Volunteer. That same year, The Connecticut Law Tribune recognized him as a “New Leader of the Law” for overall achievement in Litchfield County. Mayo signed a conditional admission in response to a four-count ethics complaint brought against him. The allegations include three instances of improper sexual conduct, one of which is said to have taken place inside the G.A. 18 Courthouse in Bantam. Two of the complainants had been referred to Mayo through the Susan B. Anthony Project, a Torrington-based program for abused women. Mayo is accused of preying on the clients while they were in an emotionally vulnerable state. Between 2001 and 2002, Arlene Birch sought counseling from the program, as well as the termination of her abusive marriage. Program officials recommended Mayo — who at the time was with the Torrington law firm of Febbroriello, Conti & Levy — to represent her in the divorce. Birch lodged a grievance against Mayo in March 2004. Birch accused Mayo of coercing her to perform sexual favors to minimize her legal fees. According to the complaint, Mayo would schedule appointments with Birch for late in the business day or after hours in his office. There, she claimed, he would expose his genitals. The lawyer, Birch maintained, “seemed more interested in fulfilling his sexual urges than my dissolution case and treated me with a patronizing manner … “ Mayo initially “denied any sexual contact or other improper behavior,” but through the agreement reached in his disciplinary matter, he admitted to certain facts lodged in the complaint. The Litchfield grievance panel found Birch credible and had probable cause for her grievance. “The panel is most concerned that you took advantage of the complainant, who was leaving an abusive relationship,” grievance panel attorney Gail Kotowski said in a letter to Mayo. “She relied upon you, and you breached her trust by acting unprofessional.” That wasn’t the only incident. Marisa Humphrey, who was also receiving support from the Susan B. Anthony Project, filed a complaint against Mayo in September 2003. Mayo represented Humphrey in her criminal case. She claimed he exposed himself to her and made other sexual advances. COURTHOUSE ‘HORSEPLAY’ In July, a Bantam courthouse employee also filed a grievance against Mayo for allegedly engaging in “unprofessional conduct and sexual horseplay in a judicial office.” A probation office employee claimed she saw Mayo “sexually touching” a probation officer, which made her uncomfortable. Mayo also allegedly tried to flirt with the complainant, the employee alleged. “This has been a long, difficult road for not only my client but for the complainants,” Mayo’s attorney, Michael A. Fasano, acknowledged during the Sept. 30 discipline hearing. The conditional admission is “in my client’s best interest,” said Fasano, whose law office is in Waterbury. Mayo declined to address the court in regards to the accusations against him. “It saddens me every time a lawyer [comes before the court],” Holzberg told Mayo. It’s “not only an embarrassment to the attorney and his family,” but it undermines the public’s confidence in the profession, the judge said. Along with the 15-month suspension, Mayo must seek treatment with a mental health professional at his own expense. If readmitted, Mayo also would have to “institute procedures in his law office to prevent his being alone, or in confined quarters, with women at any times.”

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