An Oklahoma state attorney who garnered national attention for sending fake emails to herself that appeared to be from medical marijuana proponents was suspended for one year by the state’s highest court.
Julia Marie Ezell’s “dishonest and deceitful acts of obtaining a fictitious email account, sending threatening emails to her official government email address, and falsely reporting these emails resulted in the misuse of state property and waste of law enforcement resources,” the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s June 16 opinion said.
Ezell was general counsel for the Oklahoma State Department of Health when assigned to draft regulations for implementing legalized medical marijuana in Oklahoma, the court said.
But stress caused by the work was overwhelming, and Ezell began in July 2018 sending as many as 10 threatening emails per day to herself from an email account she created, it said.
The state bureau of investigation began a probe and she was given police protection, the court said. Ezell even provided the bureau names of people she thought might be sending the emails, implicating a co-worker, a former high school acquaintance, and medical marijuana proponents, it said.
But the bureau discovered that she was the source of the emails. Ezell pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors, Falsely Reporting a Crime and Use of a Computer to Violate Oklahoma Statutes, the court said. She paid almost $22,000 in restitution for the costs associated with the investigation.
The state high court noted several factors in mitigation of the misconduct. Ezell resigned from her job and began therapy for anxiety and depression, it said. She’s expressed “remorse and shame” for her actions, and several character witnesses testified on her behalf.
But her criminal conduct reflects adversely on her honesty and fitness to practice law and warrants discipline, the court said. When confronted by the bureau, she initially sought to deflect blame on others, and Ezell’s mental and emotional conditions don’t justify her actions, it said.
The court said it appreciated her remorse and was “mindful” of the mitigating circumstances, but found that a one-year suspension was warranted.
An attorney for Ezell couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
The case is State ex rel. Okla. Bar Ass’n v. Ezell, 2020 BL 223336, Okla., No. SCBD-6847, 6/16/20.