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Tattoo-gate lawyer faces possible suspension

A disciplinary board recommended Monday that the law license of Christopher Cicero, the lawyer who tipped off former head coach Jim Tressel about numerous football players engaging in a memorabilia-for-tattoo swap with Edward Rife, be suspended for six months.

Cicero, a Columbus-area lawyer, appeared before the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Board of Commissioners on Grievances & Discipline Monday. The committee recommended a six-month suspension. However, the final decision is in the hands of the Supreme Court.

Cicero exchanged several emails with Tressel about Ohio State football players’ involvement with Rife after Cicero met with Rife in April 2010.

Rife was interested in hiring an attorney for his legal problems involving drug trafficking. Rife divulged information to Cicero about several pieces of memorabilia from current and former OSU football players. Rife was under the impression the meetings were protected under client-attorney privileges.

Rife filed a complaint against Cicero with the Supreme Court of Ohio earlier this year.

Cicero testified Monday, defending his actions.

“I had a moral obligation to notify Jim Tressel of what I learned,” Cicero said during the hearing, according to multiple media outlets.

Cicero did not immediately return a request to comment.

Rife, owner of Fine Line Ink, was sentenced to three years in prison in October on drug charges. He has not begun his sentence yet.

After Cicero shared the information with the former head coach, Tressel chose to keep the information to himself until a probe of email records in March 2011 exposed the email conversation between Cicero and Tressel.

Tressel knowingly played six ineligible players, including former quarterback Terrelle Pryor, for the entire 2010 season, which was later vacated. Tressel left the university May 30.

After an August meeting with the NCAA, the university is still awaiting a ruling on the status of the football program.

On Nov. 10, the university revealed that it would be reducing five scholarships over the next three years and the NCAA announced that the university has been charged with failure to monitor. The future state of the program and conclusion of the NCAA investigation is still pending.

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