Criminal Justice

Lawyer is accused of forging judge's signature to back up his false claim on plea deal

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A suspended Wisconsin lawyer has been accused of forging a judge’s signature on a phony document he gave to a client to mislead him about terms of a plea deal.

Lawyer Michael Petersen of Appleton, was charged with forgery and uttering a forgery, the Appleton Post-Crescent reports. The allegations are similar to those in another case that led to a one-year suspension for him that began Jan. 26.

Prosecutors in the new case allege Petersen gave the forged document to a client who had complained his plea deal didn’t reflect the terms represented by Petersen.

The client had been led to believe that his guilty plea to a felony drunken driving charge would be amended to a misdemeanor if he didn’t violate probation, according to the criminal complaint.

When the client later checked into the plea deal and saw nothing about the possibility of a misdemeanor, he contacted Petersen and went to his office.

Petersen then gave the client a document with the forged judge’s signature that included the possibility of the misdemeanor downgrade, prosecutors said.

Petersen was previously convicted of contempt of court in a case involving similar allegations and a different client. In that case, Petersen was accused of lying to a client about the terms of a plea deal for armed robbery and using phony documents to back up the claim.

The prior and the present case both involved matters handled by Petersen in 2014.

In the prior case, Judge Philip Kirk of Waupaca County sentenced Petersen to five days in jail and a year of probation. During probation, Petersen was ordered to inform every client that he is a crook, cheat, thief and liar.

“I want you to have as much business as a pimp in a nursing home,” Kirk told Petersen during the November 2015 sentencing hearing.

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