Monday, January 14, 2008

Victims' mother wants sex offender disbarred

Ten months have passed since attorney Jeb Burgess was convicted of exposing himself to young girls. Since then, he has returned to his life, still allowed to practice law.

But a victim's mother says Burgess has proven himself incapable of upholding the law.

"Jeb Burgess deserves to be disbarred. He is a registered sex offender," said Paula Birchler.

Last March, Burgess confessed to exposing himself to Birchler's 9 and 11-year-old daughters on their school playground. Amid tears, he apologized in court.

"I am so very sorry," he said.

But Birchler says an apology is not enough; she wants Burgess to pay for the crime that left her daughters devastated.

"They didn't stop crying for days, shaking, nightmares," she said. "They saw his car in our neighborhood and they were afraid he was out looking for them."

Burgess served two months in jail and has been released. He is now back at work in his law office, which he runs out of his Bellevue home.

Burgess refused a request for an interview. His attorney said Burgess says hasn't taken any clients since his arrest.

But that doesn't mean he can't.

The Washington Bar Association lists Burgess as "active" on its Web site. There is no mention of his status as a level-one sex offender.

Birchler and other parents contacted the bar, demanding change. The parents want the bar to strip Burgess of his license, but it won't.

The bar told KOMO 4 News it will recommend a 3-year suspension, insisting that it's all it can do since Burgess was convicted of a gross misdemeanor. A felony crime could have gotten him disbarred.

"He should not be allowed to practice law if there is any question about whether he is a predator," said Bethan Tuttle with the group Communities Against Predators.

The parents want the bar to at least list Burgess' status as a sex offender, and the bar agreed to consider their request.

"Our policies don't authorize that at this point," said Douglas Ende with the bar association.

The parents say if the bar association doesn't make changes, they'll ask the Legislature to make crimes like his a felony instead of a misdemeanor. They believe Burgess knew that indecent exposure would only earn him a misdemeanor conviction, which would not get him disbarred.

Burgess' attorney insists a suspension is appropriate and says therapists will testify that his recovery has been "amazing." A final decision could take another year. Until then, Burgess will keep his law license.

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