Suspended lawyer seeks reinstatement

Ralph B. DavisManaging Editor

August 2, 2012

PRESTONSBURG — A lawyer who had his license suspended in 2006, after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of sexual assault, is seeking to practice law again.

The Floyd County Times has learned that officials with the Kentucky Bar Association have been interviewing local attorneys and others, in preparation for hearings on whether to reinstate Sheridan Martin.

Martin was accused in 1999 of sexually assaulting an employee of his law office, after asking the woman to come to his home. He was charged with first-degree sexual assault, a felony, but agreed in 2001 to a deal in which he pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual assault, a misdemeanor. He received a 90-day probated sentence, on the condition he seek counseling and have no further bad acts.

Later in 2001, a former client also accused Martin of misdemeanor sexual assault. Martin acknowledged sexual contact with the woman, but said the act was consensual. He was charged with third-degree sexual assault, to which he entered an Alford plea. Under an Alford plea, a defendants maintains his innocence, but concedes he would likely be convicted of a crime. He was again given a probated sentence.

In 2006, the Kentucky Supreme Court suspended Martin’s license for two years. The following year, the court implemented an additional 30-day suspension, after reviewing allegations Martin improperly solicited business from two clients who had been involved in an automobile accident, by visiting them in their hospital rooms.

On Thursday, Martin confirmed he is seeking reinstatement to the Bar. He refused to comment on the matter, saying it would not be appropriate, and he referred questions to his attorney. When asked if he accepted responsibility for his earlier actions or if he feels he has been able to put his troubles behind him, he merely responded, “I think the life I’m living speaks for itself.”

Calls to Martin’s attorney, former Kentucky Bar president John Prather, of Somerset, were not returned at press time.

One of those interviewed, Prestonsburg attorney Ned Pillersdorf, who represented one of the women, was adamant in his opposition to Martin practicing law again. Pillersdorf said he believes the punishment Martin received was “astonishingly lenient,” and he believes giving him back his license would send send the wrong message.

“Anyone else would be in the penitentiary,” Pillersdorf said. “He should be on a sex-offender list … If that had been ‘Sheridan Tackett from Mud Creek,’ he would have been indicted and would have gone to prison.”

Pillersdorf said he is concerned because the investigator to whom he spoke told him the reinstatement case is being handled on an “expedited basis.”

“That tells me there are some pretty powerful people somewhere, pulling for him to be reinstated,” Pillersdorf said.

For that reason, Pillersdorf said he could not sit back and say nothing. He suggested that anyone else with concerns about Martin being reinstated contact the Kentucky Bar Association.

“I don’t want to be Joe Paterno,” Pillersdorf said.

But Rev. Slade Stinson, who is Martin’s pastor at McDowell First Baptist Church, said Martin has paid a price for his actions and deserves a second chance.

“I’m not minimizing what he did,” Stinson said. “But he’s served his time and he’s been rehabilitated. He’s shown me that.”

Stinson said Martin has been an “exemplary” parishioner, present at church every Sunday morning and most Sunday evenings. He described Martin as “penitent and remorseful” about his actions in the past.

Stinson said Martin told him about his past troubles, shortly after they met two years ago, and asked how he could serve God after what he had done. Stinson said he told Martin about his own wrongdoing in the past, before he changed his ways.

“God turned my life around in an instant, and he can do it for anyone,” Stinson said.

“[Martin] has been sincere in his efforts to turn his life around,” Stinson added. “He made mistakes. He did wrong, and it wasn’t right. But we need to give people a second chance, and a third chance, and on down the line.”

But Pillersdorf remains unconvinced.

“I’m convinced he is a danger to the community, and he shouldn’t get his license back,” Pillersdorf said.

Martin’s case will be reviewed by the Kentucky Office of Bar Admissions’ Character and Fitness Committee. If that committee approves the reinstatement, the case would then be considered by the Bar’s Board of Governors, before ultimately being considered by the state Supreme Court.