, Muskogee, OK

Local News

November 6, 2007

Bridge-collapse imposter accused of again posing as official

A man convicted of falsely posing as an Army captain after a deadly Oklahoma bridge collapse now is accused of posing as a military official and calling a Russian embassy.

A warrant was issued last week for the arrest of William James Clark, with authorities alleging he violated his probation as a result of the latest plot.

In the aftermath of the May 2002 collapse of the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls — an accident that killed 14 people — local officials said Clark spent 2 1/2 days posing as an Army officer, delivering orders to police and FBI agents and even performing media interviews before disappearing.

Clark, of Tallapoosa, Mo., later pleaded guilty to impersonating an Army officer and received a 70-month federal prison sentence in the case.

Authorities say that in a recent interview with police and FBI officials, Clark acknowledged that he never was in the military and said he suffered from mental illness. According to an affidavit by an investigator, though, Clark said he still recalls the aftermath of the Webbers Falls bridge collapse fondly.

Clark now is accused of calling Russia’s embassy in the U.S. on Oct. 25 and claiming to be part of a covert military operation to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin. In an affidavit, an FBI agent said Clark acknowledged developing the plot in his head, but that Clark believed it to be genuine when he called the embassy.

Clark said he recalls overhearing co-workers discuss the plot, according to the affidavit.

“The violation alleged by the prosecution is not a violation of law,” said Clark’s attorney, Robert Ridenour. “He told Russian authorities he was reporting a threat. He wasn’t making a threat.”

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly West on Friday granted a motion made by prosecutors to determine if Clark is mentally competent to serve in his own defense. Ridenour objected to the motion.

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