May, Neil's attorney, described the professor as an "honest, ethical guy." He said there was no "universally acceptable definition of plagiarism" and that "attempting to pin this down is like catching smoke in a butterfly net."

He pointed to the fact that Neil included citations and a bibliography in some of his work as proof that he did not intend to deceive. He said that at least one of Neil's papers that had been withdrawn by its publisher has been republished after formatting changes.

"I'm sure there can be a legitimate academic disagreement," May said, "but not about his integrity."

Benjamin A. Neil

Education: Undergraduate degree in history and a doctorate in law from the University of Baltimore.

Work: Neil has been a professor at Towson University for more than 20 years. He has practiced law in East Baltimore since 1979. According to his biography on the city schools website, Neil practices law in Maryland, the U.S. District Courts in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Posts: Neil was appointed as the chair of the city school system's ethics board in July 2012; he resigned this week. He also chaired the Municipal Zoning and Appeals Board in Baltimore under former mayors Martin O'Malley and Kurt L. Schmoke.

Campaigns: Records show that Neil opposed City Councilman Jim Kraft in the 2003 Democratic primary, losing by 256 votes. He also unsuccessfully ran for a House of Delegates seat in 1990.