Judge throws out case against drive-school prince

May 13, 2006 

Proving a man named John Wilson doesn’t exist doesn’t necessarily prove forgery, a Clallam County judge ruled Friday.

The decision from Superior Court Judge George Wood means Spanaway resident Sean Probst won’t go to trial on a forgery charge related to a 2003 speeding ticket.

Deputy prosecutor Bruce Hanify had argued that Probst, 27, submitted a forged document to the court after receiving a speeding ticket in 2003. The document indicated Probst had completed a court-mandated defensive driving course.

It was signed by “John Wilson” – a name Hanify described as a phony identity created by Probst and his father, Gary Probst, Washington’s driving-school king.

Sean Probst denied the charges in court documents, which also included an affidavit from his father. Both men said John Wilson was a real person who taught the defensive driving course. The documents added that Wilson left the state in mid-2003 and his whereabouts were unknown.

Prosecutors were ready to submit another Probst-linked document with the Wilson signature that was dated late 2004 – more than a year after Wilson supposedly left the state.

Sean Probst and Judge Wood could not be reached for comment Friday.

Hanify, who was disappointed by Wood’s decision, said the judge saw no connection between a phony identity and forgery.

“The basis for that decision was that even if I could prove there’s no such thing as a John Wilson, how does that necessarily establish falsification?” Hanify said.

Records from state Department of Licensing investigations show the John Wilson name appeared frequently in documents linked to Gary Probst. A 2002 memo from an assistant attorney general suggested Wilson was a false name for someone who does not exist.

Hanify had intended to call several state officials familiar with the Probst investigations as witnesses in the trial. He hasn’t decided whether to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486


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