Brad Pistotnik’s law license will be suspended for felonies

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Wichita attorney Brad Pistotnik is well known for riding a longhorn steer in his television and billboard commercials. He is expected to soon have his law license suspended in Kansas.

One of Wichita’s most prominent attorneys is set to soon have his attorney’s license suspended by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Brad Pistotnik, principal owner of the Bull Attorneys law firm in Wichita, pleaded guilty in 2019 to three misdemeanor counts of complicity after the fact in an unlawful cyberattack and extortion scheme to suppress negative online reviews on Pistotnik websites.

Nearly three years later, a Kansas disciplinary committee recommends a one-year suspension of his law license.

The federal convictions triggered an automatic suspension of Pistotnik’s Oklahoma law license. But he was allowed to continue practicing law in Kansas, where he is well known for his flamboyant “Bull Attorney” persona, appearing in TV commercials and billboards dressed for the beef-top trial. longhorn or standing on the roof of a moving semi truck. .

The Kansas Supreme Court will decide how long Pistotnik, 66, should be suspended and under what conditions he can return to the profession. It would be the sixth time he was disciplined by Kansas State in his 40-year career, records show.

Pistotnik accepted the panel’s recommendation for a one-year suspension. A question for the Supreme Court is whether his license should be automatically renewed after the suspension.

The Office of the State Disciplinary Administrator argued that he should seek reinstatement after the suspension, to ensure that he does not illegally practice law in the meantime. Pistotnik and his attorney did not discuss it during oral arguments in the Kansas Supreme Court last week.

A one-year suspension without a reinstatement hearing would be lighter discipline than the one handed down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in November 2020. That court doubled his suspension to two years and a day because Pistotnik would not accept the fully responsible for his conduct, now “he was an innocent pawn” in a scheme perpetrated by the computer software engineer he hired to clean up his online image, according to Oklahoma court records.

In Kansas on Tuesday, Pistotnik apologized to the state high court, but said he didn’t fully understand what was going on.

“I didn’t know what was going on and then it was against the law and I panicked at that point,” Pistotnik said.

The criminal convictions stem from actions taken by Pistotnik in 2014, when he hired David Dorsett, a computer engineer, for online reputation management services and asked him to help him get rid of negative reviews online about it. Dorsett pleaded guilty to two counts of uttering extortion threats over the internet and was sentenced to three years of federal probation and a $2,000 fine.

A decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on his disciplinary hearing following his sentencing provides the most detailed description to date of Pistotnik’s involvement in the case:

In response to Pistotnik’s request to remove negative reviews online, Dorsett launched a cyberattack on Leagle and Ripoff Report’s servers and on an Arizona law firm that represented Ripoff Report – sending a flood of emails. emails that overwhelmed websites’ servers and threatened to target their advertisers unless they removed negative reviews.

During the cyberattack, two lawyers from Ripoff Report called Pistotnik and asked if he knew of any information that might help them identify the attacker and stop the flood of emails threatening to crash their servers.

Pistotnik denied hiring anyone and tried to pin the blame on his brother, Brian Pistotnik, whom he sued earlier in the year over a nasty break in family law practice .

After hanging up the phone with lawyers for Ripoff Report, Pistotnik immediately called Dorsett, who confirmed the attacks. Pistotnik said he “chewed him” and “screamed at him,” asking “what was wrong with him,” according to Oklahoma court records. But Pistotnik later paid him for the work after Dorsett described his methods and confirmed that the negative posts had been successfully removed.

“Even though (Pistotnik) was initially unaware of Dorsett’s plan, after the attacks he chose to persist in lying, not contacting attorneys, and then paying for the completed plan,” the Supreme Court’s ruling reads. Oklahoma.

It wasn’t until Pistotnik learned that Dorsett had in fact caused the negative reviews to be published as part of a larger scheme to extort him and the three companies that Pistotnik reported it to the FBI. . Even then, he was misleading, the Oklahoma high court said, describing the events to the FBI as if he was “completely innocent in the scheme.” He excluded two incriminating emails from the evidence he provided to the FBI.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court wrote that Pistotnik’s actions “brought discredit to the legal profession as a whole”. The two-year-and-one-day suspension requires a reinstatement hearing before he can get his license back in the state sooner.

During Tuesday’s Kansas Supreme Court hearing, Pistotnik’s attorney John Ambrosio argued that his client’s behavior since the 2014 online attack shows he is “a credit to his profession. “.

“He gives back to the community,” Ambrosio said. “He allowed his plane to be used to fly a sick child to surgery — didn’t ask for anything, didn’t put anything in the paper until the paper found out.

“Every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas, he donates toys to the poor. It allows people to go to food banks for which it provides food. He does honor to this profession. There is a curse in the fact that he made a mistake, but that mistake was corrected by his conduct.

Ambrosio said stress and health issues contributed to Pistotnik’s actions.

“Mhis client was going through the dissolution of a family law firm. It was a terrible battle between him and his brother that ended in the appointment of a receiver and the court was involved for years to have the company dissolved,” he said. “He seriously injured his back. He had three surgeries. He has nerve damage. He had to walk with a walker for a while, and now he walks with an impaired gait because of it. All of those things, plus the stress of the breakup and the stress of practicing law, led to the mistake he made.

Pistotnik asked the Kansas Supreme Court not to measure him by his worst days. He said he had suffered enough for his actions and called the experience of being under federal prosecution “terrifying.”

“Losing a professional license – it’s part of my very identity,” he said. “Since I was a young man – I apologize for crying – I have always dreamed of being a lawyer to help people. Conscious of my vocation, I have dedicated my whole life to helping my clients and d others to continue to help people who need a good lawyer.

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Chance Swaim covers investigations for The Wichita Eagle. Her work has been honored with national and local awards, including a George Polk Award for Political Reporting, a Betty Gage Holland Award for Investigative Reporting and a Victor Murdock Award for Excellence in Journalism. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @byChanceSwaim.

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