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City attorney jailed for forgery

An attorney who provided public defense services for the city of Oak Harbor apologized to his former clients Friday in Island County Superior Court before being sentenced to jail for forging court documents.

William Dean Adams, a 53-year-old Monroe resident, said he never intended to cause any harm, but that he takes responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty to four counts of felony forgery.

“I haven’t been able to come up with anything that is adequate,” he said. “I don’t have the words to express how sorry I feel.”

Court Commissioner Karen Lerner listened to lengthy comments from Adams, a half dozen of his supporters and four angry victims before sentencing Adams to three months in jail and a month of community service work.

Yet Lerner said she was troubled that she still didn’t have a clear understanding as to why Adams, a well-respected attorney and a long-time school board member in Monroe, would forge court documents and mislead his clients.

“It’s still not clear to the court why or how this action occurred,” she said.

Adams also seemed to have a difficult time explaining why he committed the crimes, but he said it was not for financial reasons — even though he did collect hundreds of dollars in fees.

“The little lies became big lies and eventually became forged documents,” he said.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks recommended that Adams receive a five-month sentence, noting the substantial impact his crime had on the victims.

Two couples spoke at the hearing and asked the court to throw the book at Adams. Both families had hired him to complete step-parent adoptions. Adams lied to them, saying he completed the work and presented them with forged paperwork.

Jessica and Joshua Faulkner spoke at the hearing in a conference call from Pennsylvania. Jessica Faulkner said the family thought the adoption of her daughter had been finalized and they didn’t have to worry about the biological father trying to take her away. She called Adams’ actions “a cruel cover-up.”

“We trusted you with the most precious thing in our lives — our daughter’s well-being,” Joshua Faulkner said.

Oak Harbor residents Amy and Richard Hannold had a similar story. Amy explained that they hired Adams to complete her husband’s adoption of her son and to terminate the rights of the child’s biological father, who she claimed was abusive.

“We put our complete faith and trust in Mr. Adams that this was going to be handled prior to my deployment to Afghanistan,” Richard Hannold said.

Instead, the family had been living under the false assumption that the adoption had been completed.

“He put myself and my son in danger through his lies,” Amy Hannold said.

In addition, Adams forged paperwork in two divorce cases. The prosecution hasn’t been able to reach one of the victims to let her know that her divorce isn’t real.

On the other hand, three Oak Harbor attorneys and two employees from the district court spoke in glowing terms about Adams’ character and urged Lerner not to send him to jail. They pointed out that Adams won’t be able to practice law anymore, after a long and busy career.

Oak Harbor Assistant Attorney Allison Cumberbatch said she’s worked with Adams for five years. She said there is much more to him than the man who committed these crimes.

“This man is the best public defender, and I have worked with several, I have ever encountered,” she said.

Deputy Court Clerk Linda Bass said all of the court employees were shocked when Adams was charged, but they still support him.

“The integrity of the man in unreal...” she said. “He has done so much good for people. He is a good friend.”

Adams also presented a packet of letters from his supporters, including the superintendent of Monroe public schools. Adams was a school board member since 1998 and was known as an advocate for children. He recently resigned.

A restitution hearing is set for May 30.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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