Impostor lawyer's name stays mystery after trial

August 22, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

A trial yesterday in Carroll County District Court decided who the man with the goatee isn't.

He isn't Bruce Donald Willis, a Minneapolis attorney he impersonated for almost two years, because Mr. Willis came to the courtroom with his birth certificate, passport -- even a 1962 Yale University yearbook to prove his identity.

He isn't James Ross Lincoln, a man who matched his description and was wanted on outstanding warrants in Arizona and Florida, because Mr. Lincoln is dead and buried in California. Even the man's lawyer, who spent four hours yesterday defending him, claims not to know his name.

"I haven't a clue," Baltimore attorney James S. Salkin said.

During the trial, Mr. Salkin referred to the defendant as "this man at my right." The lawyer said he knows the defendant has knowledge of a money-laundering scheme and fears for his life if his identity is revealed.

After two months in the Carroll County Detention Center, the man, who is about 50 and has dark hair flecked with gray, still is "John Doe," although witnesses testified he liked to be called Dean.

Saying it's not a crime to refuse to give authorities your name, Judge Joann Ellinghaus-Jones sentenced the defendant to 90 days in jail for giving false information to the police and driving without a valid Maryland driver's license, all misdemeanors.

She found him not guilty of impersonating a lawyer, practicing law in Maryland without being admitted to the bar and theft under $300.

John Doe had worked for two Taylorsville companies owned by Floyd Martin and signed letters he wrote for them saying he was their "general counsel."

She gave him credit for the 65 days he already has served.

Mr. Willis, a tall, white-haired man who earned a law degree from Harvard University in 1965, said he visited the jail in June to see the man who had impersonated him and to ask "Why me?"

John Doe told Mr. Willis that he had been an attorney in a major metropolitan area when he learned a client had a business being used to launder drug money.

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