Man charged as a fake attorney

EVERETT — A 78-year-old Seattle man who tried to keep a woman out of jail may be the one who faces time behind bars after he allegedly posed as a lawyer in a Snohomish County courtroom.

Prosecutors say Charles Conrad Adams tried to pass himself off as an attorney last year in Snohomish County Superior Court. They allege Adams twice told a judge he was the attorney for a woman accused of child molestation. He represented the woman during an arraignment and also tried to negotiate a plea deal, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Charlotte Comer wrote in court papers.

The problem is that there is no record that Adams is licensed to practice law in Washington, nor has he ever been, according to court documents.

Adams was charged earlier this week with two counts of unauthorized practice of law. The first count is charged as a gross misdemeanor. The second count, based on three alleged incidents on Nov. 15, 2007, is charged as a felony.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Cynthia Larsen reported that she was assigned to prosecute a woman accused of sexually abusing a fifth-grade girl. The day the woman was to be arraigned on a child molestation charge, Adams allegedly called Larsen and asked to reschedule the hearing, Comer wrote.

Adams identified himself as the woman’s attorney, court papers said.

He agreed to keep the court hearing and the case was called before Superior Court Judge Gerald Knight. The court record indicates that Adams identified himself as “counsel for the accused,” Comer wrote. The woman pleaded not guilty to the charge and Adams signed court documents setting a trial date.

Larsen attempted to contact Adams using the Washington State Bar Association’s directory. She called the only “Charles Adams” listed in the directory. He told Larsen he wasn’t representing the defendant.

Larsen requested the woman be rearraigned a couple weeks later. Adams showed up to the courthouse and attempted to discuss a plea deal for his client, Comer wrote.

Larsen asked Adams if he had a Washington State Bar Association number and Adams gave her a number that belonged to an attorney with a different name and whose license is suspended, court papers said.

Later, when Adams was called before the bench, the judge asked for his bar association identification card. Adams told the judge he left his card at his office. The judge questioned Adams further and he said he was once a member of the state bar but was unsure of his current status, Comer wrote.

The lawyer for the Washington State Bar Association made a sworn statement that Charles Conrad Adams “has never been admitted to practice law in the state of Washington,” according to the court papers.

At her second arraignment, the woman told the court she wanted to hire another attorney. It’s unclear how she came to be represented by Adams.

Adams has prior convictions for forgery.

Unfortunately there are people who try to pass themselves off as attorneys frequently, said Steve Crossland, who is chairman of the state’s Practice of Law Board. The board was created by the state Supreme Court to field and investigate complaints of unauthorized practice of law.

Most of the complaints involve people who attempt to prepare legal documents, such as a wills or trusts, but aren’t licensed attorneys. Frequently these scams involve elderly clients, who are looking for help with their financial affairs. In additions, there also have been reports of people who misrepresent themselves as lawyers to immigrants seeking assistance with citizenship proceedings.

But it’s unusual for someone to come to court and pretend to be an attorney, Crossland said.

“It’s pretty hard to fly under the radar there,” he said.

Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or hefley@heraldnet.com.

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