Prosecutors Ask Court to Reject Petters’ Appeal

Federal prosecutors argue that the trial surrounding Tom Petters and the subsequent 50-year prison sentence were fair-and they ask that the Ponzi schemer's appeal be denied.

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday filed a brief in the Eighth District U.S. Court of Appeals outlining why the verdict in Tom Petters' case was fair-and why Petters' appeal should be denied.

Petters, a former Wayzata businessman, was found guilty in December of 20 felony counts relating to fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering, for orchestrating a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme that spanned a decade.

He was sentenced to 50 years in prison in April, and his attorney filed a notice of appeal later that month.

Prosecutors argued Tuesday-in an 85-page document-that Petters' defense and request for appeal are unfounded. The government sums up Petters' defense as follows: “There was a 15-year conspiracy to enrich Tom Petters with hundreds of millions of dollars without Tom Petters knowing.”

“The defense was as brash and unsubstantiated as the Ponzi scheme itself,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Dixon wrote. “The evidence against him was overwhelming.”

According to court documents, Petters argues, among other things, that the court improperly cut short the cross-examination of Larry Reynolds-a Petters accomplice who was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison in September. 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 contends that the court denied his right to change venue due to pretrial publicity. The government claims that Petters was unable to prove that the media coverage was accusatory. “Indeed, the record demonstrated that the defendant actively promoted media coverage of the case,” Dixon wrote.

The government also said that the court took precautions when selecting a jury-including drawing from a large pool of potential jurors and sending them questionnaires.

Prosecutors 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.”

Documents filed by the government and Petters' attorneys indicate that both parties will likely present oral statements outlining their respective arguments.

In addition to Reynolds, the six other Petters co-conspirators who pleaded guilty to charges related to the fraud scheme were sentenced during the past few months-Deanna Coleman, Michael Catain, Robert White, Gregory Bell, Harold Alan Katz, and James Wehmhoff.