Runaway's lawyer faces ethics charges

Feb. 22, 2011 at 3:01 PM
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ORLANDO, Fla., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- A Florida lawyer who represented a teenage runaway who said her Muslim parents might kill her has been charged with ethical violations.

John Stemberger, who practices in Orlando, contends statements he made in interviews with Fox News about Fathima Rifqa Bary are protected by the First Amendment.

Bary, who has since turned 18, ran away from her home in Columbus, Ohio, in 2009. She joined a Florida couple, both Christian pastors, she had met on the Internet and said she feared her parents' reaction to her conversion to Christianity.

The Florida Bar says Stemberger, suggested incorrectly he was representing Bary in Ohio, where a family court allowed her to live with a foster family, released confidential information about his client and said Omar Tarazi, a lawyer representing the parents, might have ties to terrorists.

A hearing before a state Supreme Court referee is scheduled June 8.

Bary submitted an affidavit in support of Stemberger: "In my opinion, Attorney Stemberger behaved in a very professional and ethical manner during the entire time he represented me and the time I have known him."

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