- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2008

BISMARCK | A man accused of impersonating a lawyer in federal courts in at least 10 states has pleaded not guilty to two felony charges - and won’t be representing himself at trial.

Howard O. Kieffer, 53, is director of Federal Defense Associates, of Santa Ana, Calif., which promises clients “specialized, creative and tenacious criminal defense, post-conviction representation and zealous Bureau of Prisons advocacy.”

But Mr. Kieffer doesn’t plan to exercise his right to defend himself. He pleaded not guilty to mail fraud and making false statements charges during his arraignment Monday.

Bismarck attorney Tim Purdon represented Mr. Kieffer at the arraignment, but said that Mr. Kieffer intends to hire Joshua S. Lowther, of Savannah, Ga., as his defense attorney.

Court records say Mr. Kieffer represented a number of clients, including a former St. Louis Blues hockey player who pleaded guilty to plotting to kill his agent, and a Colorado woman who was convicted of soliciting the murder of her former husband.

Mr. Kieffer, of Duluth, Minn., remains free on bond.

He was granted permission in March 2007 to practice law in North Dakota’s federal courts. He did not handle any North Dakota cases, but he is accused of using his “good standing” in the state to get permission to practice in other federal jurisdictions.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland ordered Mr. Kieffer disbarred last month.

The mail fraud charge carries a possible penalty of 20 years in prison, while the charge of making false statements is punishable by five years in prison. Both carry a possible $250,000 fine.

The actual sentence would probably be much lighter if Mr. Kieffer is convicted, said U.S. Magistrate Charles Miller, who handled Mr. Kieffer’s arraignment in Bismarck.

Mr. Kieffer defended former St. Louis Blues player Michael Danton, who was charged four years ago with plotting to kill his agent, David Frost.

Danton pleaded guilty in July 2004. He is serving a 7 1/2-year sentence at a minimum-security federal prison in Sandstone, Minn.

Mr. Kieffer also defended Gwen Bergman, of Aspen, Colo., against charges she used $30,000 from her mother’s retirement fund to hire someone to kill her former husband.

U.S. District Judge Walker Miller, who heard Bergman’s case in Colorado without a jury, found her guilty in May of two murder-for-hire charges.

Mr. Kieffer withdrew as her attorney July 9, after the Denver Post reported that he never graduated from law school and was not licensed to practice law.

Judge Miller has been considering whether to grant Bergman a new trial. Federal prosecutors have resisted the request, saying Bergman’s defense team included a licensed attorney.

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