A man caught providing paid legal advice even though he isn’t a lawyer was sentenced Wednesday to 21 days in jail for contempt of court.
Mark S. Wicklund, 61, was sanctioned in 2013 for practicing law without a license. He originally worked out a deal with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, which doesn’t take kindly to amateurs passing themselves off as lawyers and collecting retainers for substandard and illegal representation.
Wicklund agreed to quit playing lawyer and consented to paying $8,000 in restitution to clients he had hoodwinked. A judge agreed to waive a $50,000 fine as long as he complied.
He was on good behavior for about two months. He made a $500 restitution payment in December 2013 but never handed over more. Meanwhile, he hung his shingle again and began accepting new clients.
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Middleton resident Matthew Owens hired Wicklund to represent him in a medical malpractice claim and in a legal malpractice claim against the attorney who had first represented him in the medical lawsuit. Wicklund led Owens to believe he was a member of the Idaho State Bar and could legally represent him. Wicklund provided Owens with advice and documents for filing in court.
On April 15, 2014, Wicklund and Owens signed a demand letter sent to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, the subject of the malpractice suit. The letter was written on the letterhead of Rely-On-Us Inc., Wicklund’s company, which he had previously called The White Hat Group.
Boise resident Mark Phelan hired Wicklund to represent him in a custody dispute and in a real estate contract dispute in Texas. Wicklund told Phelan he was a law professor who had handled hundreds of custody cases and had expertise in real estate law.
Neither claim was true, Assistant Attorney General Oscar Klaas told 4th District Judge Jason Scott on Wednesday.
Wicklund pleaded guilty to seven contempt charges stemming from his representation of Phelan and Owens and for failing to pay the restitution. Six other counts were dismissed in exchange for his guilty plea.
He still owes the restitution and the $50,000 fine from the original agreement.
The Attorney General’s Office and defense attorney Brian Neville agreed beforehand to Wednesday’s sentence. Wicklund told the judge he also concurred. “I believe it’s a fair arrangement,” he said.
Klaas said he hopes Wicklund learned his lesson. Neville declined to comment.
Earlier Wednesday, Wicklund was arraigned in 4th District Court on a separate felony charge of abuse, exploitation or neglect of a vulnerable person. He is accused of violently shaking and slapping an elderly woman who is related to him. He has been in the Ada County Jail since his arrest in March. Bond is set at $100,000.
The sentence Wicklund received in the contempt case does not credit him with the time he has spent in jail on the criminal case.
Wicklund was convicted in 2001 of sexual battery of a 16- or 17-year-old two years earlier. He served probation until 2011, according to the Idaho Department of Correction.