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9 December 1996

A Competent Undocumented Fraud

I read that David Williams was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading guilty to "one count of unauthorized practice of a profession." It all started after the TWA 747 blew--was blown?--out of the sky near New York. (They don't call it The Worst Airline for nothing.) Williams donned an army uniform and strolled into the crash site command center and proceeded to help coordinate helicopter flights for 12 hours. It took that long for the people there to agree that no one there knew who he was or why he was there. They all agreed Williams had done a splendid job--which is more than can be said of the New Delhi folks--but nevertheless ordered him out of the building. And then the ungrateful bureaucrats reported him to The Authorities, who sent him to the slammer for half a year.

In the past Williams had successfully diagnosed patients for a private medical care provider and even given well regarded seminars to physicians even though he's not a bona fide doctor. I imagine Williams scares a lot of people who don't know as much as he does even though they have diplomas and certificates stating otherwise.

I admire Williams' chutzpah, but his case alarms me. What if someone asks me for my credentials as an artist? I bet I'd be convicted as a fraud after the prosecutor told the jury that "the defendant dropped out of art school after less than two months, speaks with open contempt about most respected professionals in his field, and even boasts about his complete lack of certification!" (That's not exactly true, but I know from unfortunate past experience that prosecutors rarely let the truth stand in the way of a conviction.) And if any members of the jury were still undecided, I'm sure Dr. Thomas Bonk's digitally enhanced photograph of me allegedly smoking a cigar would convince them that I was an unrepentant impostor.

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©1996 David Glenn Rinehart