Yesterday he was a shoe salesman. Today he’s a lawyer – or maybe just a wannabe.
An ex-petty officer who touts his experience overseeing a department store’s shoe section waltzed into a Long Island courtroom, pretended to be a military lawyer, and demanded a judge toss out a case while rambling about an alleged abuse of power, officials said.
Kenneth Goldstein, 51, of Queens, allegedly showed up at the Nassau County District Court in May, claiming to be an attorney with the military’s Judge Advocate General Corps. His chest lined with metals, Goldstein was there to represent a man ticketed for catching a fish that was too small to keep.
When his client refused to take a deal to pay a $50 fine, Goldstein insisted the case go to trial and that’s when his “lack of knowledge” and courtroom decorum led prosecutors to suspect he was a phony, a spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said.
After Goldstein interrupted his adversary and the judge, claimed a bay constable was lying on the stand and then abruptly demanded the case be dismissed, an assistant district attorney asked investigators to look into Goldstein’s background and a criminal probe was launched. When he showed up again the next month, Judge Scott Siller began questioning him about where he attended law school and whether he was a real lawyer.
“Yes, I am a JAG lawyer,” Goldstein said, according to a transcript of the court proceeding. “Under the commandant’s instructions, I am allowed to practice in any state in the United States as a JAG attorney.”
He said he had represented clients in New York City and upstate New York without a problem, but Siller didn’t want to hear it and declared a mistrial before warning Goldstein that prosecutors wanted to lock him up.
District attorney’s investigators slapped the cuffs on him Wednesday at a Bronx Veterans Affairs hospital where he volunteers. He was brought back to Nassau County and was arraigned on six criminal counts in the same court where he had been arguing cases. The charges included practicing law as an attorney without being registered and offering a false instrument for filing.
Officials said that wasn’t Goldstein’s first time pretending to be a lawyer and wasn’t his first arrest either. They believe he has also tried cases in the Bronx and in upstate Monticello, where he was jailed last year after starting a screaming match with a judge.
Sullivan County DA’s Investigator Michael Orrego said Goldstein had been representing two clients in a civil case at the County Court when he started fighting with the judge presiding over the case. “He got loud in the courtroom,” Orrego said, and was thrown out. When he continued screaming and fighting with court officers, they arrested him on a disorderly conduct charge.
Goldstein, who was released in his latest case on $2,500 bail, said nothing at a court appearance Friday. His lawyer, Jason Russo, asked a judge to adjourn the case until October. Goldstein and his attorney both declined to comment on the case as they left court.