Peter L. Cedeno, a predatory New York City divorce attorney, may be disbarred for several sexual assault, coercion and misconduct allegations regarding his younger female clients. The accusations against the married 50-year-old divorce lawyer, of Ramsey NJ, have piled up since the 2016 filing of a bombshell lawsuit by former client Atesa Pacelli, a Battery Park City mom who was going through a highly contentious divorce. Now Cedeno could be facing a career-ending flood of people speaking out to describe his deceptive behavior as their fiduciary.
Pacelli sued Cedeno alleging malpractice, professional negligence, and sexual assault. The suit states that Cedeno prolonged Pacelli’s divorce case and “leveraged his undue influence over her to engage her in a sexual relationship”. The suit charges that Cedeno manipulated her into an alcohol-laden lunch after a court hearing and then had sex with her. Cedeno then attempted to derail a reconciliation between Pacelli and her husband to ensure his own sexual relationship with her. He took “advantage of her intoxicated condition”, and she was “unable to meaningfully consent” as Cedeno was hoping to get her pregnant so that Pacelli “could not ignore” him. Cedeno tried to impress Pacelli and “assert his masculinity” by bragging that he liked to speed more than 120 mph and “outrun cops”, the suit alleges. He also claimed that he was addicted to pornography and had shot someone before taking the bar exam. In one bit of raunchy repartee, Cedeno sent a text message to his client saying “Right now I’m in the middle of doing something simply for pleasure, use your imagination.”
Cedeno threatened to attack Pacelli if news of his adulterous relationship became public. Pacelli has reported Cedeno to the state ethics committee and is weighing criminal charges against him. She shared her story because “I just don’t want it to happen to someone else”.
Since the details of the case became public, numerous other sexual misconduct allegations have been made against Peter Cedeno. Cedeno purportedly used his role as an attorney to pursue several sexual relationships, including one with the wife of a client between 2010 and 2012. Cedeno’s client has not been named publicly, and it is unclear if another lawsuit has been filed against Cedeno or if he has been reported to the state ethics committee for these actions.
The most recent victim of Peter Cedeno to go public has detailed an exchange where Cedeno demanded sex in exchange for his representation of her. The woman has initiated a Change.org petition to disbar Peter L. Cedeno and asked the Bar Association to investigate Peter L. Cedeno and his firm Peter L. Cedeno & Associates PC. The woman has not made her identity public and has filed the petition under the name “Jane Doe” describing the coercive behavior. She claims to be a former client and states that she hired Mr. Cedeno to represent her in a divorce complicated by a custody fight for her two children. Her Change.org petition alleges that Mr. Cedeno requested an after-hours meeting with her at his office the night before their first court appearance, where he stated that her retainer was gone. He then offered to represent her for free if she were to “go on dates” with him and “put out”. The woman claims that she refused Mr Cedeno’s advances.
The petition goes on to say that Mr. Cedeno arrived late and unprepared for the woman’s court date the next day and their court appearance was unsuccessful. She fired him and got another lawyer. She is asking the New York Bar Association to investigate both Peter Cedeno and his firm Peter L. Cedeno & Associates for his conduct, pleading “Please don’t let your many fine decent and honorable members be damaged by the presence of a sleazy sexual predator”.
Family Law attorneys are prohibited from having sexual relations with clients because their clients are often in a vulnerable state. Should someone with questionable ethics or manipulative methods be trusted with the responsibility of representing emotionally wrecked clients? Peter Cedeno has a lot of explaining to do as his role as a divorce attorney is being challenged, and a New York Bar Association investigation seems inevitable.