ROCK SPRINGS – Deceptions uncovered in a compliance check involving a registered sex offender led to an attorney employed by the Sweetwater County Attorney’s Office being censured by the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Green River attorney John Joseph DeLeon was censured for making misleading statements to the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office while he was employed by the Sweetwater County Attorney’s Office. He lives less than 200 feet from a public school and he allowed his girlfriend, Candice Nichole Cortez, to stay with him for about a week, which violated the requirement that she not reside within 1,000 feet of a school after she pleaded guilty to second-degree sexual abuse of a minor in 2016, according to court documents. He initially denied that she ever lived with him but reported the misrepresentation after she was charged with violating the Wyoming Registered Sex Offender Act, according to the Wyoming State Bar.

COURT DOCUMENTS

DeLeon has been licensed to practice law in Wyoming since 2001. DeLeon and Cortez began a sexual relationship in 2018 when he was employed as a public defender in Rawlins. Court documents and the Review Panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility noted that DeLeon never had a client-attorney relationship with the woman.

Cortez had been given a three- to eight-year sentence, but it was suspended in lieu of five years of supervised probation. She was required to update the Wyoming Department of Corrections on her place of residence. In late 2018, his relationship with Cortez continued, and when she moved to Green River, she stayed with DeLeon at his apartment from March 11-17, 2019. Later, when listing the addresses she lived at, she omitted her stay at Monroe Apartments.

In May 2019, Sweetwater County Probation and Parole confiscated Cortez’s phone. Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Joseph Tomich performed a forensic search of the phone, which showed her stay at DeLeon’s apartment, according to the ruling.

On May 20, 2019, Tomich contacted DeLeon and asked to interview him about Cortez. Court documents state that while Tomich was en route to the courthouse for the interview, DeLeon called Cortez and asked if anything was happening. During the interview, DeLeon said Cortez spent some time at his apartment shortly after her move to Green River, but he denied she ever spent the night there.

Tomich’s written report of the interview described DeLeon as “consistently deceptive” when asked questions pertaining to Cortez staying at his house. He said DeLeon tried to divert questions to “irrelevant topics and avoided answering questions directly.” Tomich also described DeLeon’s body language as “deceptive.”

Lt. Tomich then interviewed Cortez, who allegedly admitted staying with DeLeon. She told Tomich she “intentionally omitted telling Probation and Parole that she was staying at (DeLeon’s) address ‘to avoid causing problems for him, as their relationship got him fired from a job in Rawlins,’” court documents state.

Cortez was subsequently charged with allegedly violating the Wyoming Sex Offender Registration Act. According to court documents, when DeLeon heard of the charges, he self-reported his conduct to the Wyoming State Bar. He cooperated with the bar’s investigation and conditionally admitted to violating rules related to “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” and “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

In approving the public censure, the Review Panel of the Board of Professional Responsibility cited DeLeon’s cooperation with the proceedings, absence of any prior discipline, good character, his heartfelt expression of remorse for his conduct, and his extensive history of exemplary pro bono service to indigent clients as mitigating factors.

After accepting the review panel’s recommendation for a public censure, the Wyoming Supreme Court ordered DeLeon to pay a $750 administrative fee and $50 to the Wyoming State Bar.

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