Attorney accused of faking judges’ signatures

An Oak Harbor attorney who provides public defense services for the city of Oak Harbor is accused of forging judges’ signatures on court documents, according to Oak Harbor police.

Prosecutors charged William Dean Adams, 53, in Island County Superior Court April 3 with two counts of felony forgery.

Adams is the primary contractor for public defense for the city of Oak Harbor. He defends people who qualify for public defense when they are charged with misdemeanor or gross misdemeanors in municipal court. He also occasionally gets appointed cases by Island County’s office of public defense.

In addition, Adams has a private practice in the city.

City Attorney Phil Bleyhl said he advised the city administration and the municipal court judge about the situation. He said they will have to decide how to respond. Officials will have to balance the need for decent public defense with the fact that Adams hasn’t been convicted of a crime.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks said folks in his office were surprised by the allegations against Adams, who’s known as a stand-up kind of guy.

Nonetheless, Banks said he’s concerned that there may be more victims out there. That is, Adams’ clients or former clients who believe he did legal work for them that he never actually completed.

“There are serious repercussions for them,” Banks said, referring to victims.

Banks said it appears that Adams forged documents in order to cover up the fact that he didn’t complete work that clients paid him to do.

According to a report by Sgt. Jerry Baker with the Oak Harbor Police, Adams created a false decree of adoption, forged Judge Vickie Churchill’s signature and sent it to a client.

Baker wrote that the court administrator discovered the forgery after Adams’ client tried to get a copy of the paperwork. Adams wrote a letter to the court manager admitting that he had misled his client and “made up the decree of adoption,” the report states.

In addition, Baker wrote that Adams forged Judge Alan Hancock’s signature on a marriage dissolution decree, which was never filed with the court.

Banks said that means there’s a couple who mistakenly believe they are divorced. Prosecutors haven’t been able to get hold of them yet.

“I hope they haven’t married again,” he said.

Judge Churchill and Hancock have already recused themselves from the case.

Island County Prosecutor’s Office reported the allegations against Adams to the state Bar Association. Judy Berrett, a spokesman for the bar association, said a review committee will decide whether to pursue action against Adams.

Adams did not return a call for comment.

If convicted of the charges, Adams could face up to 90 days in jail under the standard sentencing range.

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