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Alleged fake Marine is AWOL again, the week before his trial: ‘If he was innocent, he would’ve came’

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WEST ALLIS -- The fake Marine is AWOL again. A West Allis man charged with lying about his military service was supposed to go to trial next week, but there's a warrant for his arrest instead.

It has been nearly two years since the FOX6 Investigators first exposed John Hemphill as a phony Marine.

John Hemphill

John Hemphill

"Why would you be telling people that you're a disabled, retired Marine who lost his leg in Afghanistan?" FOX6's Bryan Polcyn asked Hemphill.

The trial was supposed to begin on Aug. 13.

Sheila Joe

"I was excited. I was ready, but I knew he wasn't gonna show," said Sheila Joe, Hemphill's ex-wife.

Joe was prepared to testify against her ex-husband, but on Monday, Aug. 6, Hemphill failed to show up for a pre-trial conference.

"He's having some medical issues," said Lillian Cheesman, Hemphill's attorney.

The trial date was canceled, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

"If he was innocent, he would've came," said Joe.

John Hemphill

Lillian Cheesman

This wasn't the first time Hemphill has been a no-show for court. Cheesman said she still hopes to try the case.

"There are a lot of things that people do that aren't popular, but they're not crimes," said Cheesman.

Hemphill claimed to be a 22-year veteran of the United States Marines who lost his leg to a roadside bomb, and he used that story to get membership in the American Legion and score military discounts on things like his phone bill, but FOX6's investigation found he never served a day in the military.

Still, Cheesman said those things all happened before the state's "stolen valor" law took effect.

"All of the alleged bad conduct happened before that conduct was a crime," said Cheesman.

Lillian Cheesman

John Hemphill

In June, Cheesman filed a motion to withdraw as Hemphill's attorney because he wasn't paying his legal bills.

"I'm not going to discuss that until we discuss it with the judge," said Cheesman.

Since her client didn't show up, Cheesman is still his lawyer.

"He hasn't paid other attorneys either," said Joe.

John Hemphill claimed to be a 22-year vet of the Marine Corps who lost his leg to a bomb in Afghanistan.

Joe said she just wants this long saga to be over.

"He said he served his country, do his time. Serve something! You know?" said Joe.

The charges against Hemphill are misdemeanors, so even if he's picked up in Georgia, it's not clear if he would be extradited back to Wisconsin. If he ever does go to trial, he could be the first person ever convicted under the state's stolen valor law.

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