BISMARCK, N.D. - A man who once represented former NHLer Michael Danton in a murder conspiracy case has been accused of impersonating a lawyer in at least 10 U.S. states.
Fifty-three-year-old Howard Kieffer has pleaded not guilty to two felony charges in the case -- mail fraud and making false statements.

Kieffer is director of Federal Defense Associates, of Santa Ana, Calif., which promises clients "specialized, creative and tenacious criminal defense, post-conviction representation and zealous Bureau of Prisons advocacy."

Kieffer's clients have included Danton, a former St. Louis Blues player who pleaded guilty to plotting to kill his agent, David Frost, in July 2004.

Danton is serving a 7 1/2-year sentence at a minimum-security federal prison in Sandstone, Minn.

Kieffer, of Duluth, Minn., remains free on bond.

Bismarck lawyer Tim Purdon, who represented Kieffer at his arraignment Monday, said Kieffer planned to hire Savannah, Ga., lawyer Joshua Lowther as his defence counsel.

Kieffer was granted permission in March 2007 to practise law in North Dakota's federal courts.

He did not handle any North Dakota cases, but is accused of using his "good standing" in the state to get permission to practise in other federal jurisdictions.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland ordered Kieffer disbarred last month.

The mail fraud charge carries a possible penalty of 20 years in prison, while the charge of making false statements is punishable by five years in prison. Both carry a possible $250,000 fine.

Kieffer's clients have also included Gwen Bergman of Aspen, Colo., whom he helped defend against charges that she used $30,000 from her mother's retirement fund to hire someone to kill her former husband.

U.S. District Judge Walker Miller, who heard Bergman's case in Colorado without a jury, found her guilty in May of two murder-for-hire felonies.

Kieffer withdrew as her lawyer July 9, after the Denver Post reported that he never graduated from law school and was not licensed to practise law.

Miller has been considering whether to grant Bergman a new trial. Federal prosecutors have resisted the request, saying Bergman's defence team included a licensed attorney.

Kieffer runs an Internet discussion group on federal prison issues and has been quoted in the Washington Post, and other publications as an expert. The Association of Federal Defense Attorneys once offered an audio question-and-answer session with Kieffer as an opportunity for lawyers to earn required credits in legal education.

Robin Washington, the editorial page editor of the Duluth News Tribune, wrote in a column Monday that Kieffer had asked to be named as a citizen representative on the paper's editorial board.

"His name was put into consideration. We could do worse than have a nationally recognized federal criminal defence lawyer on our team," Washington wrote. "Except, by all indications, it looks like he wasn't one."