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“Mr. Petters created the drama. All I’m doing is my job,” said Steve Meshbesher, the defense attorney retained by the Petters family to push for the reduced sentence.
One of the lead prosecutors in the criminal case could also appear as a witness at the October hearing, which will center around a purported 30-year sentence cap that federal prosecutors were willing to offer Petters in exchange for a guilty plea.
Petters claims the plea offer was never presented to him. His defense team says he was very aware of the possibility.
And government attorneys contend that the plea bargain was never formal in the first place.
“Mr. Petters is guilty,” said Meshbesher, who represented Petters more than 20 years ago on theft charges from a Colorado case that eventually were dropped. “The issue is, had he received that offer, would he have accepted it? He says the answer is yes.”
Petters contends that he never knew of the plea offer until after he was found guilty in his criminal trial and that notes from his defense team indicate that defense attorney Jon Hopeman did not believe the government offer was “respectable.”
Lawyers dispute claim
But the Petters defense team — Hopeman, Paul Enge, Eric Riensche and private investigator William O’Keefe — have submitted sworn statements to Kyle that Petters knew about the potential 30-year deal but was not interested.
Chris Madel, attorney for the former Petters defense team, last week filed a motion asking to be allowed to participate in the Petters hearing on the allegedly spurned plea offer.
“I’d like to ask Tom Petters, if there was this plea offer he would have accepted, why did he testify at trial that he was not guilty to all of the charges facing him?” Madel said.
Michael, the former prosecutor, said the standard for a defendant to show “ineffective assistance of counsel” — as is alleged in this case — is high.
“Jon Hopeman is a very effective lawyer who is extremely professional,” Michael said.
“This is nothing more than an allegation by someone who has nothing better to do for the next 50 years.”
Petters is one of 13 defendants who were found guilty or pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a decade-long fraud that involved the sale and resale of consumer electronic goods that never existed.
In reality, funds from new investors to purchase the goods for sale to big-box retailers were used to repay older investors.
The scheme collapsed in September 2008, after Petters lieutenant Deanna Coleman went to federal authorities and provided a detailed outline of the criminal activity.
David Phelps • 612-673-7269