A Reston lawyer is facing contempt proceedings in Fairfax County on grounds that he allowed an impostor to pose as a defendant, thus confusing police witnesses against his client.
John P. Burns of 11800 Sunrise Valley Drive has been ordered to appear Aug. 30 before General District Court Judge Martin E. Morris to answer a contempt citation. If convicted, Burns could receive a $50 fine and up to 10 days in jail, plus disciplinary proceedings by the Virginia State Bar.
Burns is accused in court papers of "misbehavior in the presence of the court...so as to interrupt the administration of justice" and of "engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."
Burns, who is described in a legal directory as a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and Catholic University's law school, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
He is alleged to have appeared before Judge Morris as attorney for Forrest and Pegge Schmelling, a Reston couple who were accused of obstructing an arrest. However, the woman who appeared before Morris with Forrest Schmelling on July 19 was later identified in the court by Schmelling as his wife's "best friend," court papers said.
Schmelling's admission came after arresting officers had been unable to identify Mrs. Schmelling in the court. Morris dismissed the charges against the couple and then initiated the contempt proceedings.
It could not be determined yesterday if bar officials have begun a separate investigation of the incident. The contempt citation accused the lawyer of violating two sections of the Virginia Bar's code of profession responsibility in addition to criminal contempt.
Steve Telfeyan, an assistant counsel for the Virginia Bar, said the Fairfax case appears to be similar to a recent one in southwest Virginia in which a lawyer had an impostor appear before a judge to answer an indictment.
The lawyer in that case was reprimanded by the bar, he said.