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Ohio attorney fights to save career after admitting to affair with wife of client convicted of murder

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    FILE 1997: Celeste Caulley, wife of defendant Robert Caulley, and his sister Patti Deblo react to the guilty verdict that was handed down. While Robert Caulley was trying to prove that he didn't murder his parents nearly 15 years ago, his defense attorney and wife were reportedly engaged in a romantic affair before, during and after the trial. (Columbus Dispatch/ MCT /LANDOV)

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    Robert Caulley 's ex-wife, Celeste Bowman, testified that she had an affair with defense attorney James D. Owen, starting before the trial and continuing after her husband was convicted.

An Ohio attorney who had an affair with the wife of a client convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison fought to keep his license despite compromising "every principle" he thought he stood for, The Columbus Dispatch reports.

James D. Owen, the lawyer, reportedly called the affair a "betrayal of trust" and explained why it took 14 years to reveal his actions to anyone but family members.

"I felt like I had fallen off a cliff into a deep hole and didn't know how to get out of it," Owen reportedly told the Ohio Supreme Court Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline.

"Counsel spent inordinate amounts of time with Celeste (Caulley) Bowman and shunned the rest of his investigators and assistants, leading to mistakes."

- Judge John Martin

The Ohio public defender successful fought for a new trial for Owen's client, Robert Caulley, who was sentenced to 25 years to life in the killing of his mother and father, the report said. Caulley maintains his innocence.

Owen reportedly said he fought hard for Caulley, but a judge in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court went forward with the new trail. Owen's website has an endorsement by Playboy Magazine that calls him a "renowned criminal defense lawyer."

Owen "had been distracted to an extent that greatly hindered his preparation and trial performance," Judge John Martin said. "Counsel spent inordinate amounts of time with Celeste (Caulley) Bowman and shunned the rest of his investigators and assistants, leading to mistakes."

The report said Bowman and Owen had sex in his office and at a cabin.

One of Caulley's attorneys, Assistant Public Defender Kim Rigby, said the judge's decision for a new trial, in effect, overturns the convictions.

"The court has rightfully recognized that attorney Owen was acting under an egregious conflict of interest and neglected his work on Caulley's case, a case that was clearly not a slam-dunk for the prosecution," she said.

In an email to the Dispatch, Bowman said she is pleased with Martin's ruling.

"Bob deserved so much better than the representation he received, and I will forever feel guilty about my part in the affair and how it impacted Jim Owen's work on Bob's case," she wrote.

"Even though Bob and I are no longer married, I have always known he is innocent, and I am committed to seeing him freed."

Click for more from The Columbus Dispatch

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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