Lawyer who ordered hit on ex-client shouldn't be reinstated, Illinois officials say

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  • Commission report

(Reuters) - Illinois officials this week voted against allowing an attorney to practice law again after he was convicted of trying to hire a hit man to kill a former client whose girlfriend became his fiancée.

A three-person hearing board of the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission recommended against reinstating the law license of disbarred Algonquin, Illinois lawyer Jason Smiekel.

Smiekel, who was sentenced to 8-1/2 years in federal prison for his crime, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. His attorneys, Mary Robinson and Sari Montgomery, of Robinson, Stewart, Montgomery & Doppke, also did not respond to requests for comment.

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Citing past cases in the state, the hearing board said Smiekel's misconduct was worse than that of an attorney who tried to entice a 13-year-old girl to engage in oral sex and an attorney who ripped off lenders for $4.4 million.

"It was a most severe form of moral turpitude and caused serious damage to the legal profession," the board said.

Smiekel can appeal the findings to a review panel. The Illinois Supreme Court has the final say on reinstatement.

According to the hearing board, Smiekel represented Brian Hegg in a custody matter involving Hegg's former girlfriend, Megan Wangall. Smiekel and Wangall become romantically involved during the custody matter. After dropping Hegg as a client, Wangall and her child moved in with Smiekel and the two became engaged sometime in the spring of 2011.

Smiekel's decision to get involved with Wangall while he was representing Hegg was a "grave lapse in judgment ... which then led to increasingly worse decisions and conduct," the hearing board said.

The hearing board described Smiekel's mental health as worsening that year. In March 2011, he was taken to the hospital for a panic attack.

The board said Smiekel made multiple attempts to pay someone to intimidate or murder Hegg, including approaching a neighbor about killing Hegg for $25,000.

Smiekel was finally arrested in a restaurant parking lot on Aug. 4, 2011, after he contacted an undercover agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and paid him $8,500 in advance to kill Hegg.

Smiekel pleaded guilty in 2012 to trying to arrange Hegg's murder. He was disbarred by consent in 2013.

The board said it was "concerning" that Smiekel had argued he did not think the undercover agent would actually kill Hegg, even after paying him and with detailed plans in place.

Smiekel's statements "leave us with the impression that he does not fully admit or accept that he sought to end Hegg’s life," the board said.

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.