Wisconsin Attorney Faces 12-Year Sentence for Lying to a Client (Post Cresecent)

A Wisconsin attorney is facing a possible prison sentence for felony forgery charges related to deceiving a client into pleading guilty to a higher criminal charge than the client had intended, The Post Crescent reported.


Two allegations, one for forgery and the second for uttering a forgery, were filed in a criminal complaint against defense attorney Michael D. Peterson, 35, in March In Outagamie County, Wisconsin. If convicted on both charges, Peterson faces a maximum sentence of 12 years in state prison. 


Peterson had already had his license rescinded for a year after being convicted on charges of contempt of court in 2014. The conviction was for mishandling a plea deal in which he duped his client into entering a plea for more severe charges than the client agreed to. The new forgery charges against Peterson are related to the same case.   


In the charges filed last week, Peterson is accused of forging the signature of a judge on a court order that stated his client’s charge was to be modified from a felony drunk driving charge to a misdemeanor when he completed a “substantial” part of his sentence. So, the client was led to believe that he was pleading to a misdemeanor charge when it was actually a felony.


Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley reopened the case against Peterson arguing a one-year suspension was not harsh enough. Bradley was joined by Justice Shirley Abrahamson.


“Attorney Petersen’s misconduct was egregious,” Walsh Bradley wrote in the dissent. “He repeatedly lied to his client about the terms of the State’s plea offer. He told his client that certain charges would be amended when Attorney Petersen knew this was untrue. He then falsified an email purportedly written by an Assistant District Attorney in furtherance of the lies and falsely reported that the judge agreed with the amended charges. It gets worse. Attorney Petersen apparently forged a judge’s signature on a fabricated court order, lied to the court and to the police, all the while continuing the lies to his client.”


Peterson’s first court date is scheduled for May 1.

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