ST. PETERSBURG — Attorney James Patrick Stanton Jr., accused of secretly videotaping nude and partially dressed female employees at a Tampa company, has offered to voluntarily give up his law license in exchange for the Florida Bar dropping misconduct charges against him.
The announcement came this morning as Stanton, former corporate counsel for MaintenX International, appeared in a St. Petersburg courtroom for what would have been the start of a two-day hearing in the Bar's case against him.
Pinellas Circuit Judge Thomas M. Ramsberger, acting as referee, tentatively postponed the hearing until June 27 to give the Bar time to consider Stanton's request for a so-called disciplinary revocation. That is tantamount to a five-year disbarment with leave to apply for readmission to the Bar. Stanton, however, would have to retake the Bar exam and meet other conditions.
The final decision rests with the Florida Supreme Court. If the justices approve, the Bar case would be moot and no hearing would be held. If they don't approve, Stanton, who has been in private practice since leaving MaitenX in 2014, potentially could face permanent disbarment.
The high court appointed Ramsberger to take testimony and consider other evidence, including videos, in the Bar's case against Stanton.
Among the witnesses that had been expected to testify was another former MaintenX employee, Jeremy Lenkowski, who was repairing Stanton's laptop in 2010 when he found videos of women showering, using the toilet and changing clothes in company restrooms and showers. In a lawsuit he later filed, Lenkowski said he told top MaintenX executives about the videotapes but said nothing was done except to remove the cameras and instruct Stanton to get counseling.
After leaving the company in 2014, Lenkowski turned the videos over to Tampa police, who arrested Stanton on 123 felony counts of video voyeurism. Prosecutors reduced the charges to misdemeanors, and a judge dismissed them altogether after Stanton's lawyers argued that the statute of limitations had expired.
Although he escaped prosecution, the Bar charged Stanton with violating several Bar rules including one that says "a lawyer shall not commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.''
Before Monday's hearing, Ramsberger issued a confidentiality order that would ban the public, including journalists, from being in the courtroom when anything is said or shown that could identify the victims of Stanton's alleged videotaping. Attorneys for Stanton and the five "Jane Does'' who have pending civil suits against him agreed to the order.
However, in a motion seeking to intervene in the Bar case, the Tampa Bay Times is challenging Ramsberger's order on the grounds it is overly broad and constitutes prior restraint on speech and publication in a matter of public interest.
"Agreement of the parties is not a cogent reasons for excluding the media and public from judicial proceedings,'' according to the motion filed by attorney Alison Steele, representing the Times. "Wrenching, painful, embarrassing matters come before the courts every day, yet courtroom closures do not occur.''
The Times, like most other media organizations, has a policy of not identifying victims of sexual assault or other sex-related crimes.
The judge said he would consider the Times motion only if the Bar case against Stanton proceeds.
Contact Susan Taylor Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.