Ace imposter withdraws guilty pleas before sentencing
By JULIE WIERNIK
NEWS STAFF REPORTER
In a surprise move, expert imposter William Douglas Street withdrew his guilty pleas moments before he was to be sentenced Friday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court.
Ann Arbor Police say Street bilked the University of Michigan of an $800 emergency loan and forged personal checks while posing last year as a U-M law student.
During the past 10 years. Street has successfully, for a time, posed as a doctor, athlete, student and military officer. His most celebrated stunt was in 1971, when he won a tryout with the Detroit Tigers by pretending to be Jerry LeVias, at the time a star wide receiver for the Houston Oilers.
Street pleaded guilty in Ann Arbor Dec. 26 to check forgery and false pretenses, criminal charges which could bring him up to 24 years in prison.
But Friday, Street said he had made the guilty pleas hastily and under duress.
“I just wanted to get the whole thing over,” Street told Circuit Judge William F. Ager Jr.
He said he hoped to shield his Detroit-area family from emotional upset if he pleaded guilty and avoided the publicity of a trial.
Street told the judge that he feared the publicity would upset his father who suffers recurrent heart trouble and was currently a patient at Henry Ford Hospital.
Hospital officials said Friday that no patient with the surname of Street is now being treated. They could not verify immediately if a man named Street had previously been a patient.
Ager asked for written arguments from both attorneys on the case and said he would decide Feb. 22 whether to withdraw Street’s guilty pleas.
If Ager agrees to withdraw Street’s guilty pleas, the case will go to trial.
An Ann Arbor Police investigation showed that Street bilked U-M of an $800 emergency loan last year while posing as a U-M law student. He obtained the loan under the name of legitimate law student, Daniel J. Schnee.
Law school officials discovered the scam when the loan was not repaid.
Ann Arbor police also say that Street stole and forged personal checks belonging to Schnee, for the amount of $600.
As the imposter investigation unfolded, it was discovered that Street is a two-time escapee from the Southern Michigan Prison at Jackson.
Last year was not the first time Street pretended to be a U-M law student.
A few years ago, he did volunteer legal research for the City of Detroit after telling officials he was working on an advanced law degree at U-M.
“He probably knows the law better than most lawyers,” said Philip Smith, a former supervisor in Detroit who described Street as “brilliant” and “likable.”
“He is able not only to cite chapter and verse, but is also able to put together legal documents and legal briefs better than most lawyers,” Smith said of Street.
University of Michigan Law School
Washtenaw County Circuit Court
Crime & Criminals
Ann Arbor Police Department
Henry Ford Hospital
Southern Michigan Prison
Ann Arbor News
William Douglas Street Jr.
William F. Ager Jr
Daniel J. Schnee