I hadn’t followed the story of Michael Fine since I wrote about him in 2014. This was the Sheffield, Ohio lawyer who hypnotized female clients so he could sexually molest them. When I wrote the post, two victims had been identified. The final tally was six, and there may have been more.
In September of 2015, Fine pleaded guilty to five counts of kidnapping and one count of attempted kidnapping. He admitted to using his skill in hypnosis to control the female clients, forcing them submit his sexual desires against their conscious will. Last week, Fine was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He had already been permanently disbarred by the Ohio Bar. Fine was not a licensed hypnotist, but needless to say, he was an unethical hypnotist too.
Judge Patricia Cosgrove told Fine at his sentencing, “At the lowest point in their lives when they came to you for help in the throes of painful divorces and custody battles, you took advantage of them. You took advantage of their trust and faith in you by sexually abusing them. You deserve to be punished.”
When I mentioned this case in some 2015 legal ethics seminars, many lawyers refused to believe it. I even lost a law firm client because one lawyer complained that I showed insensitivity by making a mild joke about the story, which did and does remind me of something out of a bad Adam Sandler movie. It is the strangest example of unethical lawyering I have encountered, but I am confident that a stranger one will appear eventually.
11 thoughts on “Update: Astoundingly Unethical Lawyer-Hypnotist In Prison, And Disbarred.”
On a tangent (originally posted with a piece about Trump?Russia. Enjoy one of the finest films ever made. With ol’ blue eyes too.
I’m curious as to how he managed to hypnotize them. A person cannot be hypnotized against their will. Once hypnotized, however, a good hypnotist, or I guess I should say a CLEVER hypnotist can cause a subject to do almost anything.
I think if Milton Eriickson were alive he would disagree. http://www.psychologistanywhereanytime.com/famous_psychologist_and_psychologists/psychologist_famous_milton_erickson.htm
No doubt. Erickson was a grand-breaking hypnotherapist, much like Freud, for his time. Much has been learned since the 1930’s-1940’s, his hey-day. I suspect that, prior to his death in 1980, even he was aware that some subjects just flat could not be hypnotized. However, his work laid the framework for utilizing what I call “clever” strategies for utilizing suggestion to promote desired behavior.
I think Judge Cosgrove’s statement to him explains the how. These were women who came to him in an extremely vulnerable state, trusting in him as a professional, wanting to be told what to do and expecting him to tell them. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. It is always unethical for any professional, lawyer, clergy, doctor, therapist, to have a sexual or fiduciary relationship with a client and in my opinion should also be illegal.
I think you nailed it. Fish in a barrel.
I hate to hear of anyone using any technique to take advantage of another. However it has been my experience and understanding that while under hypnosis, a person would not do anything that they would not do while not under hypnosis. If there was an emergency the person would react as usual. I have had hypnosis for relaxation, stress reduction, and pain. I also use hypnosis videos from YouTube to help me overcome insomnia, anxiety, etc. I have to sat I doubt the truth behind the allegations unless the persons were willing participants or the hypnotist was extremely talented and unscrupulous and was able to do what science says is not possible; to convince people to do things that you would not do if not under hypnosis.
I think “hypnosis” is really a red herring here. It seems he used hypnotic suggestion to try to prevent recall but I doubt that he used hypnosis to convince a woman to do something she would not otherwise do. The situation he exploited here was that he had emotionally vulnerable women who had put themselves in a subordinate position to him, the professional, for him to advise them what to do. Of course, he was expected to provide advice that was in their best interest, not his. This was, in my opinion, ninety-nine percent plain old seduction targeting women who were in a state making them extremely vulnerable and not some magical form of hypnosis. We hear about six victims here but I bet there are many more potential victims where he put out a feeler but was rebuffed. He simply moved on to the easier prey. His actions were reprehensible and unethical but would have been so without any hint of hypnosis being involved. Whether or not they would have been illegal in that case I have to leave to the attorneys. You can easily find many examples of professionals making victims of their vulnerable clients without the use of hypnosis.
To pose an ethical question: If a divorce attorney had a client, formed a relationship with the client, sexual or not, and after the divorce was final married the client, would that be ethical?
Almots all jurisdictions would prosecute the lawyer for a legal ethics violation.
That would certainly be my hope. Same for any other professional.
Unfortunately, Colleen, folks can, indeed, be persuaded to do things they would not normally do under hypnosis. However, as I mentioned earlier, it would a very clever hypnotist (I refuse to call this guy a hypnotherapist).