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Suspension proposed for L.A. attorney over doctored celebrity photos

L.A. attorney faces possible six-month suspension over doctored photos of celebrities, politicians

A Los Angeles attorney faces a possible six-month suspension for posting doctored photos on her firm's website that implied she mingled with high-profile politicians and celebrities, including President Obama, George Clooney and Kim Kardashian.

The photos -- more than 50 -- are published on lawyer Svitlana Sangary's website under a tab titled "publicity."

They appear to show Sangary with dozens of politicians and celebrities, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leonardo DiCaprio and Dr. Phil.

But during a July trial, experts testified that "many, and perhaps all" of the photos were Photoshopped "to make it appear as though [Sangary] was in the presence of a celebrity," according to a report by a judge of the State Bar Court of California who recommended the six-month suspension.

In his 18-page decision, which was first reported in the legal newspaper The Recorder, Judge Donald F. Miles said Sangary had committed four counts of misconduct. Miles said they included one count related to posting the photographs, two counts of failing to cooperate with state bar investigators and another count of refusing to forward a former client's legal file to the client's new attorney.

In his decision, the judge described "grave concerns" about Sangary's "demonstrated lack of insight and her contemptuous conduct during these proceedings."

"[Sangary's] failure to remove the deceptive images from her website, even after the State Bar brought this issue to her attention, and her demonstrated disregard for the disciplinary process gives little reason to believe that her misconduct will not continue," Miles wrote.

Sangary said in an email Thursday that she had "a lot to say" about the recommendation and was "working on it," but did not elaborate. She said she had a 30-day window to request a review of the recommendation, and would provide a comment before then.

The photos remained online even after the bar began its inquiry and later filed charges, Miles wrote. They were still on Sangary's website as of Thursday afternoon.

"By posting and maintaining several images on her website falsely depicting [Sangary] posing with various public figures, when in fact [Sangary] was not actually photographed in the company of those public figures, [Sangary] communicated an advertisement or solicitation directed to the general public that was false and deceptive."

The judge said Sangary failed to appear for several hearings, including a deposition, and failed to meet some deadlines in the case. Instead, he wrote, she filed erratic responses that had "little to no rational connection to the charges at hand."

In one 16-page filing, Sangary repeatedly referred to herself in the third person and launched into tangential discussions that appeared to have nothing to do with her case, such as Natalie Portman's performance in "Black Swan." 

Records showed Sangary was admitted to the California bar in 2004 after attending law school at Pepperdine University. She had no prior disciplinary actions. 

According to her website, Sangary "is committed to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity in meeting her client's legal challenges."

The judge also recommended probation for Sangary. The California Supreme Court will ultimately decide on the recommendations.

Follow @katemather for crime and court news from across Southern California.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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