Arguments in Petters Appeal Begin February 17
Convicted Ponzi schemer Tom Petters' will have a chance to argue his appeal in less than a month.
Three circuit court judges-James B. Loken, Michael J. Melloy, and Bobby E. Shepherd-will hear oral arguments in Petters' appeal case on February 17.
Petters was found guilty in December 2009 of 20 felony counts relating to fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering, for orchestrating a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme.
Shortly after he was sentenced to 50 years in prison on April 8, he filed an appeal and asked that the public pay for legal costs associated with the appeal.
Prosecutors, who in November asked the court to deny the appeal, had requested that Petters receive the maximum allowable sentence of 335 years in prison, while Petters, who maintains his innocence, requested a mere four-year sentence.
In the appeal documents filed in April, Petters argues, among other things, that the court improperly cut short the cross-examination of Larry Reynolds-a Petters accomplice in the fraud scheme who was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison in September. Specifically, Petters claims that his defense team was not given the opportunity to present evidence that Reynolds was the “masterminded the fraud.”
Prosecutors said that the court allowed a “full and fair” cross-examination of Reynolds and only limited questions to those relevant to the case.
Petters also claims that the court denied his right to change venue following pretrial publicity. Petters said that the media was publishing prejudicial details of the case found in search warrant affidavits, detention motions, and arguments-which had negatively influenced potential jurors.
The government claims that Petters was unable to prove that media coverage surrounding his fraud scheme was accusatory. In fact, “the record demonstrated that the defendant actively promoted media coverage of the case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Dixon wrote.
The government said that the court took necessary precautions when selecting a jury-including drawing from a large pool of potential jurors and sending them questionnaires.
Prosecutors also argued that unlike his co-conspirators, Petters did not take responsibility for his actions or assist law enforcement in its investigation. The government described Petters' 50-year sentence as “fair and reasonable”-and “fully consistent with the sentences imposed on the only two other multi-billion dollar Ponzi-scheme kingpins”-a reference to Bernard Madoff, who was sentenced to 150 years in prison for a fraud scheme, and Scott Rothstein, who was sentenced to 50 years in prison for a fraud scheme.
Seven co-conspirators who pleaded guilty to charges related to Petters' scheme are Deanna Coleman, Michael Catain, Larry Reynolds, Robert White, Gregory Bell, Harold Alan Katz, and James Wehmhoff.