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Originally published Friday, November 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Man accused of posing as lawyer

The Herald of Everett reports that Charles Conrad Adams, 78, was charged earlier this week in Snohomish County with two counts of unauthorized practice of law in a bizarre case of forgery.

A Seattle man tried to keep a woman accused of child abuse out of jail by posing as her attorney in a Snohomish County courtroom, according to charging papers.

The Herald of Everett reports that Charles Conrad Adams, 78, was charged earlier this week in Snohomish County with two counts of unauthorized practice of law in a bizarre case of forgery.

According to charging papers, Adams represented the woman at a 2007 arraignment hearing and tried to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors, and on two occasions the man told a judge he was an attorney.

It wasn't immediately clear how Adams came to represent the woman, who was accused of sexually abusing a fifth-grade girl.

Details of Adams' background began to unravel after the county's assigned prosecutor got a call from the man. He identified himself as the woman's attorney and asked Snohomish County Deputy Prosecutor Cynthia Larsen if they could reschedule an arraignment hearing set for that day, Deputy Prosecutor Charlotte Comer wrote in the charging papers.

The court date was not rescheduled. Adams appeared at the hearing, where the woman pleaded not guilty. He signed all the documentation at the hearing and identified himself as the "counsel of the accused," court records say.

Larsen then tried to find Adams' information in the Washington State Bar Association's directory. The only Charles Adams listed was not representing the woman.

A second arraignment hearing was called. In it, Adams tried to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors, but the woman told the court she wanted a different attorney.

Larsen asked Adams for his bar number, and he provided one that belonged to another lawyer.

Later, the judge asked Adams for his bar-association identification card, but Adams said he had left it at the office.

It was later confirmed by the state bar association that Adams did not have a license to practice law and that he had previously been convicted of forgery.

Most complaints of people passing themselves off as lawyers revolve around legal documents, such as wills and trusts, said Steve Crossland, chairman of the state's Practice of Law Board, which was created to investigate unauthorized law practice.

Crossland said it's unusual for someone to pretend to be an attorney in a court.

"It's pretty hard to fly under the radar there," he said.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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