August 2, 2004 10:58 AM PDT

Attorney scolded for phony Net posting

A district attorney candidate claims to have been just joking when he impersonated a high school teacher on the Classmates.com Web site and "confessed" to having sex with his female students.

In February 2001, Jim Carpenter created a Classmates.com account in the name of a man with whom he went to high school years earlier and posted this message: "Hey all! How is it going. I am married to an incredibly beautiful woman, AND I get to hang out with high school chicks all day (and some evenings too). I have even been lucky with a few. It just doesn't get better than this."

The Oregon Supreme Court was not amused. It ruled last Thursday that Carpenter's practical joke raised questions about his "trustworthiness and integrity" to practice law as a member of the state bar, and said he deserved a formal reprimand.

Classmates.com is a Web site that offers to reunite people with their old high school classmates.

Carpenter acknowledged having heard rumors that his former classmate--the instructor whose name he used on the site--had an extramarital affair with a student. The teacher's name was not disclosed.

Soon after the message appeared on Classmates.com, the principal and the superintendent found out about it and started a formal investigation. "School officials initiated an inquiry into the teacher's conduct," the court said. "The teacher denied posting the message and denied having sexual relationships with students. The principal and the superintendent indicated that the teacher should discover who had posted the message."

Because Classmates.com wouldn't disclose the identity of the person who had created the account, the Oregon State Police were called in. After obtaining a subpoena, a police officer contacted Carpenter to verify that he had posted the account.

Carpenter eventually apologized for his lapse in judgment and dropped out of the race for the district attorney's job after a local newspaper learned about the incident. The Oregon bar association filed a formal complaint against Carpenter in May 2002, saying he violated regulations prohibiting "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that a reprimand was in order: "We conclude that the accused's conduct does reflect adversely on his fitness to practice law...When he acted, the accused had heard that the teacher had engaged in an extramarital affair with a young woman who had attended the high school while the teacher worked there...The accused knew that the teacher, whose reputation was in question in at least some parts of the community, was uniquely vulnerable to the content of the message, because it pretended to be an admission by the teacher that the community rumors about inappropriate conduct were true."

Carpenter was represented in the court proceedings by his partner Ryan Joslin of law firm Carpenter & Joslin. The Oregon State Bar lists the firm as having offices in John Day, Ore., which is in Grant County.

 

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