Ga. SC disbars once-prominent attorney

John O'Brien Nov. 10, 2008, 2:33pm


ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) - The Georgia Supreme Court recently disbarred an attorney whose former firm represented the State of West Virginia in litigation against the manufacturer of the prescription painkiller OxyContin.

Dante DiTrapano, of Charleston, W.Va., also worked as the agent of NFL star Randy Moss before authorities in St. Petersburg, Fla., charged him with possession of crack cocaine in March 2006. Several brushes with the law later, DiTrapano spent several months in federal prison and was disbarred in his home state in May 2007.

"Because DiTrapano acknowledged service of the Notice of Reciprocal Discipline but did not object in any way, this Court hereby accepts the recommendation of the Review Panel and orders that DiTrapano be disbarred," says the Georgia order, released Nov. 3.

DiTrapano's former firm -- DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero -- was one of four used by West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw in a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over alleged misrepresentations made while marketing OxyContin pills.

When Purdue Pharma settled McGraw's suit for $10 million in 2004, the outside attorneys received nearly $3.8 million. DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero received more than $846,000.

Both DiTrapano and his wife Teri were among attorneys and family members of his firm who contributed at least $30,000 to McGraw's 2004 re-election campaign. That figure represented nearly 15 percent of all the contributions McGraw received in that run, according to campaign financial statements filed with the state Secretary of State's office.

Dante and Teri DiTrapano each made the maximum $2,000 in contributions -- $1,000 for the primary election and $1,000 for the general election.

DiTrapano received his Juris Doctorate Degree at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta in 1994 where he was first in his class and delivered the valedictory address at the commencement ceremony.

In March 2006, DiTrapano and his wife Teri were arrested at the St. Petersburg Hilton and charged with possession of crack cocaine. Both of them were released on bond from Pinellas County Jail. The couple, as well as three individuals from the area, also was arrested for possession and a variety of other charges.

Officials said there were 73 pieces of crack cocaine and 21 grams of powder cocaine in the room when the arrests occurred. Dante DiTrapano told officers he and the others were having one last party before he entered a drug rehab facility there.

In April 2006, federal, state and local agents confiscated guns, ammunition, prescription drugs, drug paraphernalia and other personal items during a six-hour search of the DiTrapano home.

That June, DiTrapano was cited with four driving-related charges after a state trooper pulled him over near St. Albans because of an expired state inspection sticker and an expired registration.

DiTrapano also couldn't produce proof of insurance or a current operator's license because it already had been suspended. And DiTrapano already had been convicted of driving suspended on Nov. 21, 2005.

In July 2006, DiTrapano pleaded guilty to a federal drug and weapons charge and was ordered into a drug treatment facility until his sentencing. DiTrapano pleaded guilty to a charge that he was a drug addict in possession of firearms, which is a violation of federal law.

After pleading guilty before going to rehab, DiTrapano paid a $10,000 bond and signed court documents agreeing to, among other things, not possess firearms or weapons, not to travel outside the Southern District of West Virginia. He also agreed to submit to random urine tests.

In September 2006, DiTrapano's bond was revoked after an Aug. 29 urine specimen tested positive for cocaine. Just before that, DiTrapano had been put back in jail after violating terms of his home confinement.

That was after federal probation officers filed a petition showing DiTrapano violated the home-confinement conditions of his bond at least 12 times in the 12 days since he was released from a Huntington drug rehabilitation center.

In January 2007, DiTrapano was arrested again on the day he was scheduled to be released from prison. DiTrapano, who was finishing a sentence on a federal firearms conviction, was arrested on Georgia fugitive charges.

In June 2007, Magistrate Mary Stanley revealed that DiTrapano had been arrested in Georgia in April on charges of felony cocaine and misdemeanor marijuana possession.

In April 2007, DiTrapano was sentenced to 24 months in prison, which is the maximum allowed under federal guidelines for violating terms of his supervised release. U.S. District Judge David Faber sentenced DiTrapano after he waived his right to the revocation hearing after he was cited with simple possession of methamphetamine by Charleston police.

Guidelines recommended DiTrapano receive a three- to nine-month sentence, but Faber opted to sentence him to the maximum.

Just days before that hearing, DiTrapano had surrendered to U.S. Marshals after he had been wanted on charges that he violated terms of his release following a conviction last year on federal firearms charges.

In the April 1 police report, Patrolman Justin A. Hackney said he found what he suspected was a crack pipe in DiTrapano's rear pocket along with some white powder residue and less than a gram of meth.

DiTrapano was released from prison early for good behavior.

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