17:13, January 29 127 0 abajournal.com

2019-01-29 17:13:06
Former prosecutor who stole colleague’s underpants gets indefinite suspension

Photo by Francois Poirier/Shutterstock.com.

A former Iowa prosecutor who pleaded guilty to the theft of a colleague’s underpants has had his law license suspended.

The Iowa Supreme Court suspended Benjamin Stansberry indefinitely on Monday, with no possibility of reinstatement for at least a year. Before he can be reinstated, Stansberry will have to provide an evaluation from a licensed healthcare professional verifying his fitness to practice law. The Des Moines Register, Law360 and the Legal Profession Blog have coverage.

Stansberry was an assistant Marshall County attorney in a supervisory role at the time he rifled through a female colleague’s undergarments in her bedroom, photographed them, and stole the underpants, according to the Iowa Supreme Court opinion.

He also looked through gym bags at the office of that colleague as well as another to take photos of undergarments, the court said.

The underwear theft occurred in August 2016. Stansberry had texted his colleague, an assistant county attorney whom he supervised, to ask if he could stop by her home with his 3-year-old son. When Stansberry arrived, the colleague was mowing her lawn.

Stansberry asked to could go inside to use the restroom. The colleague watched Stansberry’s son while he was inside the home for about five minutes.

After Stansberry left, the colleague saw a piece of cloth in the driveway and realized it was her underpants. The colleague reported the incident to the Marshall County attorney, and an investigation followed.

Under questioning by law enforcement, Stansberry denied the theft, and denied deleting any photos from his phone, the opinion said.

A search of his phone revealed Stansberry had deleted the bedroom underwear photos, and had also deleted photos of the gym bag contents. Stansberry resigned from the county attorney’s office four days after the initial incident.

Stansberry self-reported the theft to ethics officials, but didn’t mention the recovered photos on his phone, the supreme court opinion said.

When explaining his denials to police, Stansberry said he maintained the photos hadn’t been deleted because he knew they could be recovered by law enforcement. He also said he didn’t admit taking the underpants from the home because he didn’t know where he accidentally dropped them.

Both colleagues suffered emotional trauma as a result of Stansberry’s actions. The colleague who let Stansberry into her home resigned her job, sold her home in Marshalltown, and relocated to a different county. The other colleague sought therapy and began taking medication.

Stansberry later admitted his conduct, but argued it didn’t violate ethics rules, the opinion said. He has not sought mental health treatment and has denied he has a compulsion.

When explaining why he photographed the undergarments, he said, “It was dangerous and I suppose it was an adrenaline rush.”

The state supreme court said Stansberry’s actions reflected adversely on his fitness as a lawyer; demonstrated a lack of respect for the law; constituted sexual harassment; and amounted to conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

“Stansberry has minimized his crimes, placed blame elsewhere, and failed to acknowledge his wrongdoing,” the Iowa Supreme Court said.