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Marine impostor pleads not guilty

November 12, 2009 12:02:10 AM PST
A Palm Springs man accused of posing as a Marine and wearing medals that he did not earn pleaded not guilty in a U.S. District Court Thursday.Steven Burton, 39, was seen in pictures wearing a Marine Corps uniform displaying the Navy Cross along with the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and other medals. Burton was never in the military.

A high school classmate who is also a Navy commander took the pictures of Burton at a high school reunion. She suspected Burton was not in the military and sent the photos to the FBI.

The Department of Defense said Burton was never in the Marine Corps and wearing the medals is a federal offense.

Burton pleaded not guilty Thursday morning. Prosecutor Joseph Akrotirianakis said it's a misdemeanor charge.

"It's a violation of federal law to wear certain military decorations without the authorization to do so," said Akrotirianakis.

Burton is free on $10,000 bond posted by his friend, Barry Barnes. On Wednesday outside of the defendant's home, Barnes would only say, "He's innocent until after a trial, period. That's all that matters. But like I said, talk to his lawyers."

But on Thursday, Burton's attorneys also wouldn't say much about his client's claim of innocence despite everything indicated in the pictures.

"I think what you're asking is why he did not plead guilty and unfortunately, once again, I cannot comment on the evidence underlying the charges but I can assure you that as time goes on, you will see more evidence regarding this," said Burton's defense attorney, Mike DeFrank.

Burton will be back in federal court on December 21 for a hearing. If he is convicted, Burton could spend a year in prison and be fined up to $100,000.


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