FARGO (AP) - A Grand Forks attorney who was cleared of conspiring to kill a confidential informant won't be allowed to practice law for another three months, even though the North Dakota Supreme Court lifted an emergency suspension filed against him.
A criminal complaint accusing Henry Howe first of murder conspiracy and then of witness tampering was dropped last month after the credibility of a key witness was questioned. A lawyer for Howe, who was suspended in January, said his client was the victim of a vendetta for Howe's zealous defense of drug cases.
The state Supreme Court last week approved a motion by its disciplinary counsel to drop the interim suspension resulting from the conspiracy charge, but noted that Howe must still serve out a six-month penalty ordered in March that stemmed from an immigration case. Howe was accused of failing to provide proper representation for two undocumented Mexican nationals and their children.
Howe's lawyer, David Thompson, has asked the court to backdate the suspension to Jan. 31, the date of the emergency sanction, rather than March 11. The disciplinary board has not responded to that motion.
Thompson said Wednesday neither he nor Howe would comment because the case is still active.
Howe, 73, has appeared before the Supreme Court on several disciplinary matters. He was suspended for 90 days in 1977 and 120 days in 2001, and has been admonished by inquiry committees on four occasions.
Thompson had called the murder conspiracy charge a "thunderbolt." Walsh County prosecutors had accused Howe and his clients at the time of plotting to kill a potential witness in a drug case.
Thompson said the state's key witness, Steven Anderson, has a history of lying to investigators. Anderson made up a murder-for-hire plot in Becker County, Minnesota, in 2003, and falsely claimed a fellow inmate in a Nebraska jail wanted to hire a hit man in 2004, Thompson said.
Thompson told The Associated Press after Howe was cleared that his client is devastated by the events and his law practice has been left in shambles. The court had appointed a trustee when the interim suspension was ordered.