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Charges: Law School Grad Posed as Lawyer

By Greg Cima
Pantagraph.com

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. Sept. 3, 2005 -- A Chicago woman was arrested in a McLean County courtroom Friday morning on a charge of pretending to be an attorney.

And a court file says she intends to represent herself in the case.

Mushun Thomas, 36, listed as Michelle Thomas in federal documents, also was arrested in May 2004 on still-pending federal criminal charges that said she pretended to be an attorney in Chicago. Documents from the case from Illinois' Northern District of the U.S. District Court indicate Michelle Thomas graduated in 1997 from the DePaul University College of Law, but failed the Illinois bar exam on six occasions.

Thomas has pleaded innocent to the latest federal charges. She was held Friday in McLean County jail in lieu of $300 on a charge of false personation of an attorney.

First Assistant State's Attorney Kim Campbell said Thomas was, at the time of her arrest, representing a woman in a felony domestic battery case from McLean County. A court file accuses her of impersonating an attorney since July 14.

Campbell said officials with the county sheriff's office questioned whether Thomas was a licensed attorney, and a check with the state Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission revealed she was not licensed to practice law in the state.

The prosecutor said the woman charged in the domestic battery case thought Thomas was a licensed attorney, hired her on a $2,000 retainer and paid $250 upfront.

One condition of Thomas' release from federal custody forbids her from leaving the state's northern federal court district, according to an order filed in May 2004. Bloomington is in the court's Central District.

And a separate court order says Thomas is not allowed to "perform any legal service that requires the passing of the Illinois bar."

An FBI agent wrote in a federal court document that he discovered Thomas was not a lawyer when she was representing two men and two women in a federal lawsuit against Bank One and Mortgage Express Inc., according to federal court documents. The lawsuit, dismissed after Thomas failed to prove she is a licensed attorney, claimed the financial institutions violated banking regulations and consumer protection laws relating to home loans, court documents say.

Two attorneys for Thomas have since been allowed to withdraw from her federal criminal case.