Update (Personal): Here's why I reacted so strongly to the "Attorney Chad" incident


About a week ago, I posted an off-topic entry called "Attorney Chad" is about to have a really bad weekend.

It appears that after the tragic Amtrak derailment a couple of weeks ago, a Philadelphia-based personal injury attorney named Chad Boonswang (allegedly) decided to send out hand-written "sympathy cards" to the families of not just one, but at least two different victims. The "sympathy cards" actually contain no words of sympathy, but instead are crass ads pushing his litigation services at a discounted rate. What a bargain!!

Adding insult to injury, at least one of the victims and their families happen to be Jewish, making the embossed cross on the outside of the card doubly tacky.

Mr. Boonswang claimed that "whatever we were referring to" didn't come from him or his office, which I find awfully difficult to believe given that it was sent to at least two different families. He also claimed that he was "looking into" what happened, although he's failed to provide any sort of follow-up to his "investigation" of "the facts" so far.

I proceeded to not only push the story here and on Twitter/Facebook, but to look up the relevant portion of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Code to see if Boonswang was guilty of ethics violations (it looks like he may be, although that's subject to interpretation). I also called attention to his actions to the PA Bar.

For anyone who thinks I was overreacting, Mr. Boonswang's (alleged) crass exploitation of personal tragedy was roundly denounced by the Dean of Wayne State University Law School (and former Democratic MI Secretary of State candidate) Jocelyn Benson.

In spite of that, some have suggested that I am overreacting; that Mr. Boonswang's (alleged) stunt may be kind of sleazy, but isn't a code violation or even unethical, and that I was out of line in making such a fuss over it (even though it was close family/friends of the victims who publicized the incidents in the first place).

One of the victims, Rachel Jacobs, happens to have been the daughter of Michigan State Senator Gilda Jacobs. In fact, it was the Jacobs family who received the note from Boonswag referred to in my original post. However, I never knew Rachel Jacobs, and have only met her mother a few times at various local political functions.

I wanted to give a bit of context to explain why I'm taking this incident so personally despite having no personal connection to any of the victims.

When I was 18 years old, my father, Leonard Gaba, died of a brain tumor. Over the next few weeks, we received many sympathy cards, of course...including one from a girl I had just graduated from high school with. I was a bit surprised, since she and I hadn't really known each other very well, but was touched...until I opened the card to find a "10 Ways Jesus Can Save You!" pamphlet inside. I should note that this girl knew that we were Jewish.

A few weeks after the funeral, I left for college at Michigan State University. Freshmen were required to room blind, so I had no idea who my roommate would be. When I met him, a tall blonde guy named Brian, I was still wearing the Kriah ribbon--a small torn piece of black cloth.

We shook hands, introduced ourselves, and then Brian asked me what the torn ribbon was for. I explained that my father had recently passed away, and that Jewish custom was for mourners to tear black cloth as part of the mourning process.

His response?

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that he's burning in hell right now."

I should note that this was less than 5 minutes after we had met. I was assigned to live in the same room as this guy for the next 9 months.

Needless to say, between the death of my father and having to live with this jackass, my freshman year at MSU doesn't exactly hold fond memories for me.

A word of advice to Mr. Boonswag (or the "Mystery Person" who you claim is trying to "frame" you for sending these notes): If you're going to send tacky, tasteless business promos to the loved ones of tragedy victims, at least have the decency not to assume you know their religious beliefs.

Meanwhille, anyone who wishes to honor the memory of Rachel Jacobs should consider donating to her Detroit Nation project, which is dedicated to supporting Detroit-area projects to help revive the Detroit economy and culture.

(minor update: added "alleged" since technically speaking, it's possible that Mr. Boonswang really was "set up" (hah!))

UPDATE 5/27/15: Wow. It looks like I may owe Mr. Boonswang an apology after all. From a guy named Frank Olivo in the comments:

My firm does Boonswang Law's marketing. This wasn't a set up, nor did it originate in their (or my) office. It was another attorney who does not practice this sort of law, but that was hoping to get a referral fee if Chad got the case (usually entitling him to 20%-30% of what the attorney recovers). He has referred cases in the past, but was asked to stop after a similar episode a few months back (he sent a note to someone who called Chad to scream at him). I think that he does DUI/Criminal Defense and gets most of his clients with direct mail, but never stopped to think that this sort of method would be inappropriate given the situation.

No one at Boonswang Law does any marketing. My firm does his PPC and we have run one TV commercial, and that's it.

As far as the experience with Christians, unfortunately, there are insensitive assholes in every group. I'm really sorry to read this story of yours.

If this is true, then I apologize to Mr. Boonswang...although, if the same thing has happened before (and recently), then why didn't he just say so in the first place (and why did he act as though he had no idea what I, or the original poster, was referring to when it was quite obvious from the photo)?

In any event, for the moment I'm just adding this update and I've also removed the photo of the note itself.

UPDATE 5/27/15: See the comment thread below for the rest of the explanation.

My apologies to Mr. Boonswang. It does sound like you were unfairly accused by myself and others.