Drive-school prince eludes forgery charge

June 17, 2006 

For the second time in a month, a Clallam County judge has scrapped a forgery charge against the son of Washington’s driving-school king.

The decision means Spanaway resident Sean Probst won’t face a trial in Port Angeles and won’t be questioned about an elusive individual named John Wilson, a man prosecutors say does not exist.

Superior Court Judge George Wood filed his decision Tuesday, rejecting a request for reconsideration filed by deputy prosecutor Bruce Hanify. The ruling mirrored Wood’s earlier mid-May decision to dismiss the charge without prejudice.

“The difficulty with the state’s case is the total lack of admissible evidence to support the elements of the crime,” Wood wrote.

The forgery charge stemmed from a speeding ticket Probst received in 2003 in Clallam County. He was ordered to attend a traffic safety course. Probst later filed a certificate with the court showing he had completed a course with Traffic Safety Associates, a business owned and operated by his father, Gary Probst.

The certificate was signed by John Wilson, a name that frequently appears in state records associated with investigations of the Probst family and their driving schools around the state. The records show state officials believe Wilson might be a false identity used by the Probsts to promote their business interests.

The original charges against Sean Probst stated that Wilson didn’t exist. Probst retorted that Wilson was real and taught the traffic safety course. An affidavit filed by Gary Probst said Wilson was a former employee who left the state of Washington in 2003 – but public records show Wilson’s name appearing on letters from 2004 and 2005, both linked to Probst’s businesses.

In Clallam County, Hanify said he would call witnesses “showing conclusive proof” that no employee named John Wilson worked for Probst. Judge Wood’s ruling said Hanify did not show how the witnesses knew it.

“The court has no basis upon which to determine whether or not their beliefs were based upon fact or speculation,” Wood wrote.

Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486

sean.robinson@thenewstribune.com

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