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'Spielberg' Says Charges Are Untrue
By Tom Jackman
The Fairfax City man who was arrested after allegedly convincing high school administrators that he was the nephew of filmmaker Steven Spielberg said yesterday that he is "no older than 18" and that he committed no crime in occasionally attending Paul VI Catholic High School.
Jonathan Spielberg said he went to classes at the Fairfax school "once or twice a week," beginning last spring. When officials became concerned over his poor attendance, they tried to contact Steven Spielberg at his DreamWorks SKG studio in California and learned that he has no nephew living here.
In Fairfax court records, Jonathan Taylor Spielberg--his legal name after a 1997 name change--is listed as 27 years old. He was arrested Monday night in his family's apartment in Fairfax Square and charged with one count of forgery and two counts of uttering false documents, all felonies. He told police he was 20.
Police said that a charge of forging a public record (his petition to change his name to Spielberg last August) was added last night and that he was released on an unsecured $10,000 bond.
Earlier yesterday, Spielberg said in a brief interview at his residence that the forgery and uttering charges are false, and "I'm sure it's going to be dismissed."
Spielberg, who drives a BMW with the personalized license plate "SPLBERG," said he never told anyone he was related to Steven Spielberg. "They asked if I had connections," he said. "I usually didn't answer. Sometimes I said, 'Maybe.' "
But his fellow Paul VI students noticed some oddities. For one, Spielberg, supposedly a 15-year-old freshman, drove to school and was allowed to park in the spot usually reserved for the principal, sophomore Ryan Zivic and others said.
The students said Spielberg told them he came to school for only a few times a month because, according to Zivic, "he said his uncle was making a film."
Jonathan Spielberg was the talk of the small four-year school, partly because of his name and partly because he spent and lent money freely, students said. "He doesn't look 15," saod sophomore Jean Tarascio. "He looks 20."
Schoolmates said Spielberg sometimes alluded to Hollywood connections--for example, telling some girls that actor Ben Affleck would accompany him to a Paul VI football game and inviting one student to attend the Grammy Awards with him. Neither invitation panned out, students said. Tarascio added that none of her friends believed that Jonathan Spielberg was related to the Hollywood director.
Spielberg said he attended Paul VI sporadically, even wearing the school's uniform, with the full knowledge of officials there. "I just called them, talked with the principal and the assistant principal. They told me they could accept me."
Spielberg said that because he was auditing the classes for no credit, he did not have to pay tuition. One student in his English class said Spielberg did not have to do the homework expected of others, either.
Paul VI's principal, the Rev. John Lyle, and other school officials did not return calls yesterday. The Rev. Robert J. Rippy, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, said that he did not know how Spielberg gained entrance to the school or how long he was enrolled and that the diocese is conducting its own investigation.
"I just went there for the experience," Spielberg said. "Just for the fun, to get the experience I never had."
Spielberg, who lists his birthplace as Tehran in court records, would not say where he previously attended school, whether he works or whether his parents work.
According to police, Spielberg applied to Paul VI in September 1998 and later provided a transcript from a "Beverly Hills Private School for Actors" as well as letters from DreamWorks that police believe are fraudulent. "I have no idea about those," Spielberg said yesterday.
In August 1997, Spielberg changed his name from Anoushirvan D. Fakhran, saying Jonathan Taylor Spielberg was his great-grandfather's name. In court papers requesting the switch, he said, "This change of name is not sought for any fraudulent purpose," and gave his birthdate as Jan. 2, 1973, the same date listed on a speeding ticket he got in Fairfax last summer. Spielberg said yesterday that the 1973 date is wrong. School officials believe him to be a 16-year-old sophomore now, but Spielberg now says "I'm no older than 18."
Staff writer Peter Pae contributed to this report.