Attorney Gary Pendleton has been temporarily suspended from practicing law pending further proceedings by the Utah State Bar.
Senior Judge Boyd Bunnell granted a petition by the bar's office of attorney discipline to suspend Pendleton's license. The action stems from allegations that Pendleton traded legal services for drugs and because he was convicted last year of possession of methamphetamine, a third-degree felony.Pendleton, who has been an attorney in Utah since 1978, has 30 days as a "winding down period," said Charles Gruber, an attorney for the bar.
Bunnell said he based his decision largely on statements given by four former clients of Pendleton, who said he had traded drugs for legal services.
Pendleton has denied the allegations. All criminal charges related to those same statements were dismissed prior to or during his December trial, leaving only the possession charge.
"The evidence . . . clearly shows that the respondent had a general reputation among the drug culture in and around St. George as an attorney who used drugs and who performed legal services in exchange for cash and methamphetamine," Bunnell wrote. " . . . while defending persons accused of criminal acts, he has participated with those persons in furthering violations of the law and has encouraged those clients to violate the same laws which they are accused of violating."
Pendleton was sentenced on Friday to three years probation. District Judge David Roth also ordered him to complete a drug abuse treatement program, pay a fine of $5,000 and complete 320 hours of community service.
A sentence of up to five years was not imposed, pending successful completion of the probation terms.
Assistant Utah Attorney General Steven Morrissett argued that Pendleton should spend at least 90 days in jail.
But Roth said Pendleton should be treated the same as any other first-time drug offender. The judge said the probation, fines and treatment orders were his usual sentence for a third-degree felony.
"Mr. Pendleton has paid a high price and will pay a higher one," said Roth, referring to pending disciplinary action from the Utah State Bar Association.
During the trial, the prosecution's main evidence was a 1995 videotape showing Pendleton and four other people ingesting a white powder from a table. The tape was made by the home's owner without Pendleton's knowledge.
Pendleton could not be reached for comment.