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Local attorney faces discipline in Park Tudor sex abuse case

November 7, 2018

A prominent Indianapolis employment attorney is facing a state disciplinary complaint for misconduct related to the investigation of a former Park Tudor School basketball coach who later was convicted for trying to entice a student into sex.

Ice Miller LLP partner Michael Blickman is accused in an 18-page complaint of possessing and copying child pornography, failing to immediately report child abuse and other ethical rule violations that could result in the Indiana Supreme Court taking action against his law license.

The complaint was filed by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. Blickman did not immediately respond Wednesday afternoon to requests for comment from IBJ.

Ice Miller said in a statement Wednesday that “Michael Blickman has devoted his life to family, community and the pursuit of excellence in the practice of law. Ice Miller stands behind Michael in this matter. Beyond that, Ice Miller does not comment on ongoing matters before the Disciplinary Commission.”   

Blickman represented Park Tudor when the father of a 15-year-old student presented evidence that she and basketball coach Kyle Cox had exchanged sexually explicit texts and images. Blickman represented the prestigious north-side prep school when he met with the father, his attorney Rob Dassow, and then-Park Tudor headmaster Matthew Miller on Dec. 14, 2015, to discuss the allegations.

But Blickman “was not only a lawyer for Park Tudor, he was a close friend of Cox,” according to the complaint from the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. Blickman also had two students at the school and supported its athletic programs, the complaint says.

At the meeting, the student’s father showed Blickman sexually explicit texts and videos that had been exchanged with Cox, which the complaint says constituted child pornography. Blickman asked the father to leave his daughter’s laptop computer that contained the images, which he did.

The complaint says that while Blickman was required under state law to immediately report the suspected child abuse, he didn’t. Further, the complaint says, Miller asked Blickman if Park Tudor was required to report the matter.

“Although (Blickman) had previously advised Miller to report inappropriate touching of a student by another student in an unrelated matter in 2015, (he) … told Miller he would research whether reporting was required in the matter involving Cox and the child,” the complaint reads.

Blickman took the child’s laptop, a screen shot image of the child and the printouts of the sexually graphic and solicitous texts with him after the meeting, the complaint says. The next day, Blickman told Miller that a report to the Department of Child Services was required.

Miller and another school official met with Cox on the morning of Dec. 15, but Blickman did not attend. Cox resigned later that morning. DCS was not notified of the abuse until about 2 p.m. that day. But the complaint says the school failed to report that Miller and Blickman had viewed the images on the child’s laptop or that Blickman had possession of the sexually graphic texts and images.

That afternoon, Blickman drafted a confidentiality agreement, the complaint says, in which Cox would make a statement that he had resigned and would agree to keep the matter confidential. Blickman also “discussed a settlement offer for the child and the child’s parents with Dassow,” the complaint says.

The following day, Blickman had an Ice Miller IT specialist make copies of the images and texts and then returned the laptop to Park Tudor, after which Miller returned it to the girl’s father. He then presented the proposed settlement agreement, under which “the child was prohibited from discussing her relationship with Cox to law enforcement or other authorities, therefore limiting law enforcement’s ability to investigate and prosecute the crimes,” the complaint says.

A few days later, a DCS investigator contacted the child’s parents, and upon learning of a plans to interview the girl, Blickman emailed Dassow notifying him that her talking to authorities would violate the confidentiality agreement that had not been signed.

Authorities raided Cox’s home and executed a warrant at Park Tudor on Jan. 7, 2016. Members of the state child abuse task force interviewed Miller on Jan. 21, the complaint says. He committed suicide on Jan. 23.

Cox was charged and pleaded guilty in federal court of coercion and enticement of a minor. He is serving a 14-year prison term. The parents and child entered into a settlement agreement with Park Tudor and Ice Miller in June 2017, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges Blickman violated several state rules for professional conduct for acts including possessing and copying child pornography; failing to immediately report suspected child abuse; and hampering a criminal investigation.

The complaint also notes the close nature of Blickman’s former relationship with Cox, saying Blickman “attended Cox’s wedding, played golf with Cox, and attended Park Tudor sporting events with Cox. Cox’s wife was also a personal trainer for (Blickman and his wife).”

Blickman is a columnist for IBJ's "In the Workplace" feature.

The complaint against Blickman comes just days before his 40th year as a practicing attorney. He was admitted to practice in November 1978.

In late 2016, federal prosecutors reached a so-called deferred prosecution agreement with Park Tudor School, a move that spared it from prosecution for failing to accurately and promptly report an inappropriate relationship between Cox and the student.

Under deferred prosecution agreements, a prosecutor agrees to grant amnesty in exchange for the defendant’s agreeing to fulfill certain requirements. In this case, those included continuing to provide employee training on child abuse and operating under the oversight of an independent monitor.

The deferred prosecution agreement—signed by U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler and Park Tudor board chairman Thomas Grein—said that Matthew Miller caused a “materially false report” on the inappropriate relationship to be submitted to the Department of Child Services on Dec. 15.

In particular, the report “omitted key facts and circumstances related to the sexually explicit communications” between Cox and the girl, including that Miller was aware of the existence of explicit images and videos the girl had created at Cox's request.

At the time, Minkler criticized Blickman for taking the laptop to his law office and copying materials without notifying authorities.

"Clearly, when you take over possession of that, the only proper thing to do is turn that over to law enforcement," Minkler said, noting that investigators ultimately had to get a search warrant to obtain the laptop.

"That is not the way it should happen," Minkler said.

In its statement after the deferred prosecution agreement was announced, Park Tudor said: "Park Tudor's response, through the actions of Matthew Miller and the school's then legal counsel, was inappropriate and not what we expect from our school. Nor is it what we will tolerate going forward."

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