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Cynthia A. Dame’s plea hearing in a forgery case turned into criminal accusations against her dead husband’s friend — lawyer Michael A. Kilgore. Dame, accompanied by her lawyer J. Warren Ott, was in Fulton County, Ga., Superior Court Judge Alford J. Dempsey’s courtroom Friday to plead guilty to one count of forgery and one count of false swearing, in connection with a phony will she filed after the death of her husband — Whitner K. “Whit” Livingston III. The will would have left Livingston’s estate entirely to Dame and left out Lake Sheetz, Livingston’s daughter from his first marriage. No actual will exists. Dempsey sentenced Dame to five years on each count, but probated both sentences, and sentenced her under the First Offender Act. State v. Dame, No. 01SC03062 (Fult. Super. plea April 20, 2001). But Dame’s plea, which included 700 hours of community service and $7,000 in fines, also required her to draft and read in court letters of apology to Sheetz and to Probate Judge Floyd E. Propst. But Assistant District Attorney Bradley R. Malkin exacted another condition: Dame would have to identify the person she claims participated in the crime with her. In a quivering voice, she accused Kilgore of masterminding the forgery. Kilgore had claimed in an affidavit in Sheetz’s probate action that after Livingston’s death he had secretly marked an unsigned, uninitialed copy of Livingston’s will, and later found that copy filed in probate court�this time bearing Livingston’s initials. In re: Estate of Whitner K. Livingston III, deceased, No. 173909 (Fult. Probate Sept. 9, 1998). “I am so sorry for what I’ve done, but yes, sir, there is someone else involved and that person is Michael Kilgore, who took advantage of me,” she said. Dame said Kilgore was afraid that Sheetz would object to his 50-50 fee-sharing arrangement for $504,000 in legal fees for Livingston and Kilgore’s work in some shareholder derivative actions. That money is the estate’s largest asset. To protect himself and his fee, Dame said, Kilgore suggested drafting a will that would place the money in accounts bearing her name, and from which she would pay him his fees. “He’s the one who pretty much came up with the idea to do this,” she said. Claiming that at the time she had been “literally having a hard time functioning in life,” Dame said she agreed to help Kilgore secure his claim on the fees. “I was stupid,” she said. “I went along with it.” Kilgore, present in Dempsey’s courtroom during the hearing, raised his eyebrows during Dame’s speech. Following the hearing, he explained that because Dame was making criminal charges under oath, he had to decline comment until he could speak with his lawyer. Sheetz says she was glad Dame pleaded guilty to the charges, but thought Dame’s scripted apology rang hollow. The phony will, Sheetz says, would have given everything to her stepmother. “It left me nothing unless she was dead,” she says. “And then her brothers and sisters got half.”

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