After admitting last year that he cyberbullied one of Charlotte’s most prominent law firms, attorney Robert Donlon avoided punishment, in part, by agreeing not to “violate any state and federal laws.”
This week, the 60-year-old was jailed on two domestic-violence charges, including breaking and entering with intent to terrorize and injure, a felony. He remained in custody Thursday morning at the Mecklenburg County Jail.
At one time, Donlon appears to have been a highly successful corporate attorney specializing in commercial deals. A 2013 story in the Charlotte Business Journal announcing his hiring by the firm Horack Talley said Donlon “has represented Fortune 50 companies in billion-dollar transactions and served as lead attorney on more than 150 merger and acquisition transactions during his 30-year career.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
The complaint against him, which also includes a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass, was filed following a Monday night incident at the Ballantyne home of Donlon’s former wife, records indicate. Jail records indicate Donlon was jailed Tuesday.
In a 2017 request for a protective order that was filed when the two were separated but still married, Donlon’s former wife referred to his “continued abuse of alcohol” and described him as “angry and verbally abusive.”
Last year, Donlon was disciplined by the N.C. State Bar in response to a bizarre chain of events dating back to 2015 in which over the course of a year he appears to try to blackmail one of the city’s signature law firms to collect disputed legal fees.
According to an Aug. 31 filing by the State Bar in the Wake County courts, Donlon sent a flurry of emails threatening to release “embarrassing or incriminating information” about several lawyers at Moore & Van Allen unless he was reimbursed.
That dispute arose from a 2014 malpractice complaint filed against Donlon and his firm by a former client. The ex-client, who was represented in his lawsuit by an attorney from Moore & Van Allen (MVA), dropped the complaint in January 2015.
In response, Donlon sent several emails to Moore & Van Allen demanding reimbursement for the cost of defending himself, the State Bar says. Moore & Van Allen refused to pay, and the firm’s former chairman declined Donlon’s request that June for a meeting, the bar says.
Matters escalated. Not only did Donlon later threaten to sue MVA and its former chairman, he also said he would launch a social media campaign that would publicize “interesting stuff” about two MVA attorneys and one of the firm’s partners, including details of an alleged sexual affair, the bar filing said.
Eventually, Donlon sent the entire email thread to five Moore & Van Allen attorneys with the comment: “Please read the email string below and realize how great a lawyer one of your partners is.”
On Thursday, a Moore & Van Allen spokeswoman said the firm would have no comment.
A disciplining committee of the State Bar concluded that Donlon “intended his threats and harassment to intimidate MVA into reimbursing him” for his previous legal fees, according to the filing.
In a consent agreement with the State Bar, which was signed by Donlon and his attorney, Lane Williamson of Charlotte, Donlon admitted having a history of alcoholism and that he “was under the influence of alcohol at the time he engaged in the conduct described above.”
The State Bar suspended Donlon’s law license for a year. But it put the punishment on hold for up to two years if Donlon met a long list of conditions, including that he not drink during his probationary period or take any non-prescribed controlled substances.
Donlon also had to undergo 12 alcohol screenings a year, attend three hours of continuing legal education on substance abuse, and follow the law.
He made his first court appearance on his new charges Tuesday.