Why Did The Florida Bar Fail…? Are Certain Florida Bar Members Exempt from Rules?

Tallahassee, FL—A shopper that walks into their neighborhood Walmart to purchase a Rug Doctor Carpet Cleaner does not have to ask a store clerk for a piece of dirty carpet to make sure that the carpet cleaner actually works before making the purchase. If the carpet cleaner does not work or if the shopper is not happy with the carpet cleaner—for whatever reason—then the shopper is entitled to either a full refund or an exchange of their choice. The Federal Government protects consumers—Consumers Rights and Consumer Protection Law provide ways for individuals to fight back against abusive business practices, including misrepresentation of products.

On March 9, 2011, Defense Attorney Greg Cummings contacted the mother of seventeen-year-old, DeShon Thomas, to inform her that Circuit Judge Hankinson did not care about protecting DeShon’s rights. In the same breath, Greg Cummings stated, “You need to hire me because your son (DeShon) needs a lawyer.” Both Greg Cummings and DeShon’s mother were aware that earlier that same day (March 9, 2011), the Leon County Sheriff’s Office had additionally charged DeShon with Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile Delinquent. The additional charge followed the February 7, 2011 charges for Two Counts of 1st Degree Murder that resulted from the January 27, 2011 double homicide of Laqecia Herring and her brother, Sterling Conner Jr. The double homicide was being investigated by the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.

Greg Cummings and DeShon’s mother were introduced at a bondsman’s office in Tallahassee weeks after DeShon’s arrest for the Two Counts of 1st Degree Murder charges. DeShon did not have a bond. The meeting was set up by a former client of Greg Cummings. Before DeShon’s mother spoke a word about DeShon’s case, DeShon’s mother, who was being mindful of Greg Cummings’ time, told Greg Cummings that she was not interested in hiring an attorney right then. DeShon’s mother stressed that she wanted to speak with DeShon’s court appointed attorney to see how that went before taking any set actions in regards to DeShon’s case. The problem for DeShon’s mother was neither she nor DeShon, nor the Office of Regional Counsel and Criminal Conflict Office, nor the Public Defender’s Office, nor the Leon County Clerk of Courts knew the name of DeShon’s attorney. DeShon’s mother explained the situation to Greg Cummings, even hoping that he could help her understand why there was no attorney on record for DeShon. At the conclusion of the meeting, Greg Cummings insisted on meeting with DeShon, despite DeShon’s mother not hiring him.

Over the next several weeks, DeShon’s mother would repeatedly call the Office of Regional Counsel and Criminal Conflict Counsel’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office and the Leon County Clerk of Courts begging for the name of DeShon’s attorney—only to be told that there was no name available. On a few occasions, DeShon’s mother went to the Leon County Clerk of Court and the Public Defender’s Office hoping that a more personal, fact-to-face request would result in a the name of DeShon’s attorney or at least obtain a reasonable reason as to why the name of DeShon’s attorney was not available—to no avail.

On March 9, 2011, DeShon had been in the Leon County Jail for nearly a month, and still there was no attorney’s name available to DeShon or DeShon’s mother. When DeShon’s mother received a phone call from Greg Cummings, she was not surprised to hear from him. Greg Cummings had been repeatedly calling DeShon’s mother desperately wanting her to hire him. With DeShon being in the Leon County Jail for over a month, the additional charge of Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile Delinquent, along with the Indictment on Two Counts of 1st Degree Murder and Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile Delinquent, brought about a lot of confusion. Without having an attorney to consult with, in spite of DeShon having been court appointed an attorney—but no attorney on record, DeShon and DeShon’s mother was under a lot of stress. On March 9, 2011, Greg Cummings words to DeShon’s mother were, “Judge Hankinson doesn’t care about your son’s rights,” and “You need to hire me because your son needs an attorney.” Greg Cummings having previously told DeShon’s mother that he (Cummings) believed in DeShon’s innocence, is what prompted DeShon’s mother to hire Greg Cummings.

On March 12, 2011, DeShon’s mother and Greg Cummings signed a Contract for Service. DeShon’s mother paid Greg Cummings $11,000 up front. After getting DeShon’s mother’s signature, Greg Cummings went to the Leon County Jail and had DeShon sign the same Contract. Before the ink could dry, Greg Cummings became very elusive. Over the next sixteen months, Greg Cummings did not depose a single witness, did not disclose the victims’ autopsy reports, did not disclose DeShon’s AT&T cell phone records and never hired a private investigator as DeShon’s mother had insisted. Greg Cummings sat in court and allowed State Prosecutor Jack Campbell and Circuit Judge James C. Hankinson to deliberately delay pre-trial hearing. Under Greg Cummings’ representation, nothing outside of case management hearings occurred.

In late July 2012, after having paid Greg Cummings nearly $30,000, DeShon’s mother stopped paying Greg Cummings and filed a complaint against Greg Cummings with The Florida Bar. In August 2012, DeShon fired Greg Cummings as his attorney. Greg Cummings told DeShon that he would stay on without charge, but DeShon and his mother no longer trusted Greg Cummings. DeShon’s mother knew that Greg Cummings was being more loyal to Circuit Judge James C. Hankinson and State Prosecutor Jack Campbell than representing DeShon ethically. And DeShon’s mother was right. The same day Greg Cummings filed a Motion to Withdraw from DeShon’s case, Circuit Judge James C. Hankinson granted the motion and then signed A Summary of Offense for Solicitation to Commit 1st Degree Murder and Probable Cause, finding probable cause to be sufficient and issuing an Arrest Warrant for DeShon, who was still in the Leon County Jail. DeShon’s mother had predicted that there would be some kind of retaliation against DeShon if they were to fire Greg Cummings which is why she had waited to after she filed the complaint with The Florida Bar first, without informing DeShon, and then telling DeShon to fire Greg Cummings. When State Attorney Willie Meggs announced that DeShon was being charged with Solicitation to Commit 1st Degree Murder—stating that DeShon solicited another inmate to murder a witness in his upcoming murder trial, no witness had given a sworn incriminating statement against DeShon. DeShon’s case defaulted back to the court to appoint an attorney.

After Greg Cummings was fired, DeShon’s mother learned more than she’d bargained for. According to DeShon’s court docket and court record, Circuit Judge James C. Hankinson withheld motions that he’d granted appointing DeShon attorneys prior to DeShon’s mother hiring Greg Cummings. There were two different attorneys’ names on the motions. A named Regional Counsel attorney filed a Motion to Withdraw in March 2011 and a named private conflict attorney was assigned to DeShon’s case.  If the motions had been filed, then the names would’ve been entered into the computer database. The problem, the Motions or names were not entered into the computer until after Greg Cummings was hired. And they were back dated. In looking at the dated documents and the date of entry, there was no doubt that withholding the motions from DeShon’s record was a deliberate act.

In March 2013, DeShon filed a complaint against Greg Cummings with The Florida Bar. While DeShon’s mother’s complaint was closed without findings of Greg Cummings having violated any of their rules, it was DeShon’s complaint that has been left without any formal form of decision.

In Greg Cummings response to the complaints that had been filed against him, Greg Cummings spoke highly of Circuit Judge James C. Hankinson and admitted to not informing DeShon or DeShon’s mother about previously knowing that an attorney had been appointed to DeShon’s case, prior to their signing a Contract for Service.

Greg Cummings underhandedness not only deceived DeShon and his mother, but also deceived another attorney. How many times has Greg Cummings and other attorneys who show more loyalty to judges and state prosecutors than their own clients, been allowed to deceive attorneys who are supposed to be assigned cases? Why has Greg Cummings unethical practices been swept under the rug when others are punished for doing less?

If nothing else supports the complaints that DeShon and DeShon’s mother filed against Greg Cummings with The Florida Bar—clearly, the failure of Due Diligence and violation for soliciting another attorney’s client should ring loud and clear. So why did The Florida Bar fail DeShon Thomas, a Black male juvenile defendant, wanting nothing more than to be represented by an ethical attorney. DeShon’s mother, a single mother of four, did not have a money tree in her backyard. Neither DeShon nor DeShon’s mother were looking for any special favors. They simply wanted a defense attorney to present factual evidence and to ensure that DeShon received a fair and just trial. Greg Cummings did not deliver. And The Florida Bar did not uphold their own rules.

Where’s the Consumer Protection?