Local attorney accused a second time of forging judge's signature

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OUTAGAMIE COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A local attorney is charged with two counts of Forgery for allegedly forging a judge's signature on a plea agreement in Outagamie County.

Charges were filed March 1, 2018, against Michael D. Petersen, 35.

Action 2 News obtained a criminal complaint detailing the allegations against Petersen in this case:

In Sept. 2016, one of Petersen's clients called police to tell his story. The client said it started in 2013 when Petersen told him to take a plea deal in a 4th Offense OWI case. Petersen told his client that if he did not violate probation, the felony charge would be amended to a misdemeanor.

The victim entered the plea in Dec. 2013. A few months later, the victim found out that there was no indication that his plea agreement included a reduction of the charge to a misdemeanor.

The client contacted Petersen, who told him he would get a signed copy of paperwork that would show the reduction of the charge. The victim never received his signed copy, so he went to Petersen's office to get it. At that time, Petersen gave his client a copy of the order that was purported to have been signed by a judge on March 6, 2014.

An Appleton police sergeant investigating the case was told by the judge that he had never seen the order and that he never signed his name to it.

The judge, Greg Gill, said that he would not amend a felony OWI to a misdemeanor. He said he didn't even hear the case.

"We're not exactly sure how he puts the signatures on there, but it's a clear cut indication with the documents that we have here that he had been forging judges' signatures onto documents to please his clients," said Sgt. Neal Rabas, Appleton Police Department.

The complaint states that Petersen admitted to preparing the fake order but continued to claim that the judge signed it.

This is not the first time Petersen has been accused of falsifying a judge's signature. In 2015, Action 2 News reported that Petersen was charged with Contempt for his handling of a 2013 robbery case.

In this case, Petersen told his client that if he pleaded guilty to attempted robbery charges, those charges would be amended at a later date and the client would be eligible for treatment programs in prison.

However, that was never the case. Investigators said Petersen doctored email exchanges between himself and the district attorney's office. He also forged a judge's signature on a court document he presented to the client.

Petersen entered a "no contest" plea to the Contempt charge and was sentenced to probation in that case. In 2018, the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation suspended his license for a year.

Other clients have reached out to police with complaints about Petersen.

"Unfortunately, in a lot of those cases, we didn't have the documentation like we have in these two cases," Sgt. Rabas says.

Calls we placed to Michael Petersen were not returned. Petersen willl be in court for his initial appearance on May 1st.

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