Vernon County attorney suspended after failing to disclose statutory rape conviction in prosecutor race

By Karen Kidd | Sep 29, 2017

Onetime Vernon County prosecutor candidate and Nevada, Missouri, attorney Dustin W. Dunfield has been suspended following a Sept. 26 Missouri Supreme Court order after he failed to disclose a 1996 statutory rape conviction when he ran for the office in 2014.

Onetime Vernon County prosecutor candidate and Nevada, Missouri, attorney Dustin W. Dunfield has been suspended following a Sept. 26 Missouri Supreme Court order after he failed to disclose a 1996 statutory rape conviction when he ran for the office in 2014.

The state court found Dunfield guilty of professional misconduct and suspended his law license indefinitely with no petition for reinstatement to be considered for one year, according to the high court's order.

The 40-page informant's brief filed in the case by the office of chief disciplinary counsel referred to the matter as "an honesty case."

In 1996 Dunfield pleaded guilty to felony statutory rape and received a two-year suspended imposition of sentence (SIS) and was placed on two years' unsupervised probation, according to the brief.  

The conviction predated his study of law, his application to the Missouri State Bar in April April 2010 and his admission to the bar in April the following year, according to the informant's brief. Dunfield disclosed his statutory rape SIS when he applied to the bar, according to the brief.

In 2014 Dunfield announced his candidacy for Vernon County prosecutor, for which he swore and affirmed on a candidate declaration form that he had not been convicted or found guilty of or pleaded guilty to a felony under Missouri law, according to the brief. His name was removed from the ballot in September the same year after a circuit court judge ruled that Dunfield didn't qualify as a candidate because of the statutory rape conviction, according to the brief.

Dunfield also was ordered by the judge to register as a sex offender, according to the brief.

The chief disciplinary counsel’s disciplinary proceedings followed, and a regional disciplinary hearing panel found Dunfield violated court rules when he failed to disclose his felony guilty plea, according to the brief. The hearing panel recommended Dunfield receive a stayed suspension of at least six months and two years' probation but the chief disciplinary counsel rejected that recommendation, according to the brief.

Instead, the chief disciplinary counsel asked the state Supreme Court to suspend Dunfield’s law license with no leave to apply for reinstatement for at least one year, according to the brief.

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