By JULIA JACOBO, ABC News
(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — The license of a Nashville, Tennessee attorney has been suspended for four years after he posted advice on how to get away with murder.
The advice was given in 2017 in response to a post by a Facebook friend who described a “tumultuous” breakup with her child’s father and inquired about the legality of carrying a gun in her car, according to court documents filed in the Supreme Court of Tennessee on Friday.
Attorney Winston Bradshaw Sitton reportedly wrote that if the woman wanted to kill her ex-boyfriend, she should “lure” him into her home and “claim” he broke in with intent to do her harm and she feared for her life, according to the Tennessee Supreme Court judgment.
Sitton, whose Facebook page described him as a lawyer, also emphasized in the comment that his advice was given “as a lawyer” and that if she was “remotely serious” she should delete the thread, because it could be used as proof of premeditation against her in trial, the court documents state.
“If you want to kill him, then lure him into your house and claim he broke in with intent to do you bodily harm and that you feared for your life,” he wrote. “Even with the new stand your ground law, the castle doctrine is a far safer basis for use of deadly force.”
In response to Sitton’s comment, the woman wrote, “I wish he would try,” to which Sitton advised her to “keep mum about this,” the documents state.
According to the judgment, Sitton had never met the woman in person but had been friends with her on the social media platform for about a year.
Although the woman later deleted the Facebook post, her ex-boyfriend became aware of the exchange and brought screenshots to Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich, who then passed the screenshots to the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, according to the court documents.
Sitton received a four-year suspension, one year of which is an active suspension and the rest is on probation.
The case is described as “a cautionary tale on the ethical problems that can befall lawyers on social media” in the judge’s opinion, which was written by Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Holly Kirby.
Disciplinary proceedings found that Sitton’s conduct was “prejudicial to the administration of justice” and in violation of the state’s rules of professional conduct. Disciplinary proceedings are not criminal proceedings, the court document made clear, and he has not been criminally charged.
Sitton describes himself on his LinkedIn page as a “lawyer/business consultant with extensive experience in the healthcare, financial services, and entertainment industries.”
In a statement posted to his firm’s Facebook page, Sitton said the language he wrote in the post was “intemperate” and that he regretted “the way this utterance was phrased” but described the comment as “intentionally caustic and cynical.”
“I adamantly contest the finding that my gratuitous commentary offered to a battered woman, who was being threatened and abused and harassed by her son’s father, was legal advice as to how to commit a crime or in any way violated my legal duties as either a citizen or as a lawyer,” Sitton wrote.
“We agree with Mr. Sitton that it is hard to conceive of any reason why a lawyer, any lawyer, would offer instructions on how to commit murder and stage a concocted defense,” Kirby’s judicial opinion stated.
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