- Associated Press - Monday, June 13, 2011

COLUMBUS, OHIO (AP) - The attorney whose email tip to Jim Tressel launched a scandal that led to his forced resignation as Ohio State’s football coach and possible NCAA discipline for the school is being investigated for legal misconduct by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Sanctions against lawyer Christopher Cicero could range from a public reprimand to permanently losing his law license.

State Disciplinary Counsel Jonathan Coughlan alleged in a filing Monday that Cicero violated professional conduct rules by revealing information from interviews with a potential client.

Cicero, a former Ohio State football player in the early 1980s, met with Columbus tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife on April 2, 2010 and again on April 15, 2010 to discuss whether Cicero would represent him in a federal drug trafficking case, according to the filing.

During an April 1, 2010 raid on Rife’s business, federal agents seized several pieces of Ohio State football memorabilia, including gold pendants, autographed photos and championship rings, the filing said.

During an April 2 meeting with Cicero, Rife explained his involvement in criminal activity and also explained how he acquired the Ohio State memorabilia, the filing said.

“During the meeting, Rife expressed his concern that their conversation would remain confidential,” the filing said. Cicero “assured Rife that everything Rife told respondent would remain confidential.”

In fact, the filing said, Cicero immediately emailed Tressel to tell him of the discovery of the memorabilia.

“Just passing this on to you,” Cicero said in his email to Tressel. “Have a Blessed Easter.”

Cicero sent two more emails to Tressel on April 16, a day after a second meeting with Rife.

Tressel and Cicero eventually traded a dozen emails on the subject.

A message left with Cicero on Monday was not immediately returned.

The filing against Cicero alleges he proposed an aggressive legal strategy that would return the memorabilia to Rife within a week and likely meant no jail time.

Rife met with several other attorneys, all of whom said the opposite, that Rife would go to jail.

Rife ultimately hired another lawyer. But state Supreme Court rules are clear that the attorney-client privilege extends to cases involving discussions with a prospective client.

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