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Judge rules probation for Marine imposter

March 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
There will be no jail time for a Palm Springs man who impersonated a U.S. Marine to impress his former high school classmates. The judge chose probation instead.Steven Burton admits that he dressed up and impersonated a highly decorated Marine Corps officer at his high school reunion. By doing so, he committed a federal crime.

However, Burton won't have to spend any time behind bars. Monday, a district court judge simply put him on probation for a year and fined him $250.

The judge ruled that Burton actually committed the crime out of a mistaken and misguided respect for the military.

After court, Burton's attorney explained why Burton dressed up as a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps.

"Mr. Burton wore the medals to the high school reunion out of a desire to impress his classmates," said Burton's attorney Michael Defrank.

Defrank said it was possible that Burton could have received up to a year in federal prison if the circumstances had been different.

"For example, many offenders under this particular code section are individuals who do the acts of impersonating an officer for profit, speak at a VFW, to get benefits at a VA, any variety of acts that are for their own personal gain," said Defrank.

But the judge ruled that didn't happen in this case. There was no financial gain.

U.S. Attorney Joe Akrotirianakis agrees.

"He had not used military medallions with which he was charged for any purpose of personal gain or to access military bases or anything to that effect," Akrotirianakis said.

After court, Burton's attorney also said that his client did not want to make a statement.

However, he did have a statement to the judge.

"I am deeply sorry for this offense, and I wish I used better judgment at the time," said Burton.