Michael Casale, Jr., 66, a Pennsylvania attorney has been suspended for five years for placing GPS tracking mechanism and recording device in the vehicle of his former girlfriend to discover who she was dating. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania granted a joint petition consenting to discipline, which listed the following as mitigating factors: no disciplinary history; admission of wrongdoing and cooperation during his disciplinary proceedings; and remorse.
Casale, told the court during his arraignment that he is married, admitted to police that he broke into his ex-girlfriend’s South Williamsport garage in November or December 2015 and placed the devices in her car. The charges indicated the couple had an on-and-off four-year relationship that the woman ultimately ended in September 2015.
Casale said he had tried to retrieve the devices on three or four occasions but could not because the doors to the garage were locked. For some time after the devices were placed, according to the affidavit, his ex ran into Casale at different locations and received inappropriate text messages from him.
The woman told investigators Casale came to her home at 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 20 intoxicated, indicated he wanted to renew their relationship and told her he had checked her garage to see if her new boyfriend’s car was there. She provided police a copy of an email she received March 15 from Casale apologizing for his “drunken visit.”
The woman told officers Casale then made a second apology over the phone roughly a month later, saying he had been obsessed with her and requested a face-to-face meeting to confess something. It is unclear whether he wanted to confess what he had done. The woman said she rejected the meeting request. She discovered the tracking mechanism and recording device in March 2016, and Casale later denied the encounters were related to the tracking.
Casale pleaded no contest to criminal trespass and interception of communications in September 2017. A burglary charge was dropped as part of a plea agreement. He was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to donate $10,000 to a women’s program at the YWCA. He must also perform 100 hours of community service and have no contact with his ex-girlfriend. Judge Nancy L. Butts imposed a $10,000 fine she ordered to be paid to a women’s program because she characterized Casale’s conduct as a type of domestic violence in which the victim is unknowingly stalked via a tracking mechanism by a former loved one.
The final four years of his suspension are stayed if Casale complies with certain conditions outlined in the decision. One of the conditions requires Casale to comply with all of the conditions of his probation as set forth in the criminal case against him. The sanction is retroactive to January 4, the date Casale was temporarily suspended, and he will be eligible to begin practicing law again on January 4, 2019.
The attorney has claimed in court that he is aware of he committed a crime and is “remorseful for and embarrassed by his conduct,” according to the joint petition for discipline. Because he has no prior criminal record, his sanction may be short-lived.