Not the Dream Team

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception

Fake Lawyer Defends Accused Drunk Driver
Stamford Conn.
Associated Press
November 2, 2007

462507955_89dfc53a45-200.jpgAn alleged drunken driver will get a new trial after court officials say he was represented by a fake lawyer. Howard Seidler, 62, of Brooklyn, N.Y., was arrested Thursday when he returned to Stamford Superior Court for his client’s sentencing.

“This was a terrible fraud on the court,” State’s Attorney David Cohen said.

Court officials charged Seidler with unauthorized practice of law and criminal impersonation. He may also face charges of first-degree larceny and forgery, Cohen said.

Authorities said Seidler claimed to be a real New York attorney named Harold Weber while representing Ismet Idrizaj of Norwalk on a drunken driving charge. A jury deliberated for just eight minutes before convicting Idrizaj, who spent $18,000 on legal fees.

Federal authorities are investigating cases across in the country in which Seidler may have posed as Weber, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Seidler was convicted in the 1980s of grand larceny, as well as posing as a lawyer or a doctor in the 1970s.

Prosecutor David Applegate, who tried the Stamford drunken driving case, said Seidler asked strange questions during jury selection.

Most defense attorneys ask standard questions such as whether jurors understand reasonable doubt.

“If you were in a forest and you came to a clearing, and you saw a house, could you describe the house,” Seidler asked one potential juror, according to a transcript.

“Just a little plain house, kind of disheveled,” the juror answered.

“That is good enough,” Seidler responded. “She is acceptable by me.”

He asked another juror whether he consumed alcohol like the fraternity brothers in the movie “Animal House,” then asked whether the juror liked animals.

After the trial, Applegate looked up Weber in a database and found two matches, then discovered Seidler’s biography was a mix of details from the men’s lives.

Officials decided to see if Seidler would show up at court for Idrizaj’s sentencing. He did, carrying a briefcase with his real name engraved on it.

The state’s legal investigators said they will probably try to get Idrizaj’s money back. He did not return a call for comment.

Messages seeking comment by phone and e-mail were left with Seidler on Friday.

Photo: Planet Grenada