As we prepare to debate in motions court the issue of the statute of limitations and its applicability to my lawsuit against Kelly for her defamation per se, there is a damning wrinkle right behind the scenes that most parishioners would not spot. Specifically, Sugarland Chiow had an ethical and legal obligation to produce the email in question.
Pursuant to the ABA model rules, which govern attorney conduct and were adopted by Virginia in 1999, attorneys have an obligation not to conceal evidence relevant to the other side, to make full and effective efforts to protect and preserve information, and to avoid destruction of evidence.
We already know that Sugarland Chiow engaged in questionable conduct in this space. For example, he redacted an email from Jeff Aaron to Caroline Parkinson, the diocesan intake officer. In the email, Jeff revealed that Bob Malm violated church confidentiality provisions regarding clergy disciplinary complaints, for he wrote to Caroline Parkinson to discuss the matter, even asking if it was okay to engage in retaliatory conduct.
How did I find out about Sugarland’s concealment? I found out when he sloppily tripped himself up by providing an unredacted copy of the same email. Oops.
In the case of Kelly’s defamation per se, Jeff had a legal obligation as the church’s attorney to make reasonable inquiry about documents subject to discovery. Leaving aside the question why the email in question wouldn’t have been in Bob’s sent folder, he had only to ask vestry members or the diocese for relevant materials. Thus, Sugarland either has an ethical problem on his hands due to failure to adhere to the duty of care imposed on him as the church’s legal counsel, or he has an ethical problem on his hands due to the fact that he had access to the email in question but didn’t produce it.
In other words, no matter how you parse it, Sugarland Chiow at a minimum damaged the church’s reputation, and quite possibly engaged in illegal conduct. I think few would contend he met his ethical obligations as an attorney.
What’s even more ugly is the pervasive pattern of misconduct on the part of Sugarland, perjuring priest Bob Malm, and the church. From making up nonexistent places and events in Texas, to trying to drag a dying woman into court in violation of the law, to concealing evidence, to defamation per se by Kelly Motormouth Gable, to perjuring priest Bob Malm attempting to tortiously interfere with my employment, to perjuring priest Bob Malm’s going after Mike, it is hard to imagine a more toxic church, a more corrupt organization, or a more narcissistic entity.