JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local defense attorney is now facing a criminal charge after he was accused of inappropriate sexual contact with two of his clients, while they were in jail.
Anthony Blackburn, 45, was charged with simple battery by the State Attorney's Office.
Blackburn has been an attorney since 2005 and graduated from Florida Coastal School of Law. Recently, he defended Lonna Barton, mother of toddler Lonzie Barton, in a drug case in Baker County.
According to an affidavit filed by the State Attorney's Office, Blackburn visited two of his female clients, inmates at the Duval County jail, and while with them in a conference room, he showed them pornographic images.
Those encounters took place Sept. 3, prosecutors said.
He also had inappropriate sexual contact with the women, prosecutors said.
Detectives said that behind closed doors and with the lights off, Blackburn pulled up pornographic images on a tablet, made sexual advances on one of his clients, touched her inappropriately and forced her do the same to him.
Another inmate client he visited claimed she had sexual contact with him at the jail, as well.
According to court documents, police got suspicious when a corrections officer noticed Blackburn inside the conference room with one of the women in the dark.
One of the woman said she felt forced to take part in that sexual activity because she felt it would help her get her jail sentence reduced, according to the affidavit.
Investigators said they listened to a recorded phone call from the jail in which she told a friend what happened with Blackburn. Detectives said surveillance video showed Blackburn meeting with the clients at the jail.
Officers arrested Blackburn on Friday.
It was his second arrest in Jacksonville. In 2005, he was charged with DUI.
News4Jax found that Blackburn was suspended by the Florida Bar in 2014 for misconduct. He is currently in good standing with the Bar.
News4Jax went to the address listed for Blackburn’s law firm to get his side of the story, but a woman inside said he didn't work there anymore. He didn't return calls requesting comment.
“The allegations are serious, but as of now, it’s still a misdemeanor charge,” said attorney Gene Nichols, who is not involved in the case.
Nichols said Blackburn’s job might be in jeopardy. The charge also has the potential to affect his clients' current cases.
“Any lawyer who is accused of and subsequently found guilty of a crime could lose their license,” Nichols said. “But they can remove the privilege to practice law whether or not he gets convicted in a criminal court room.”
A judge issued Blackburn a $153 bond and told him he's not allowed to have any contact with the women involved in the case.