A tearful Tom Petters admits guilt, pleads for lighter sentence

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 24, 2013 - 4:35 PM

The man who led Minnesota’s biggest business fraud tells judge and a federal prosecutor: “I lied’’ during 2009 trial.

 

A tearful Tom Petters pleaded to a federal judge for forgiveness Wednesday morning, attempting to get a reduced prison sentence for leading the biggest business fraud in Minnesota history.

Petters asked U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle to replace his current 50-year prison sentence with one that carries a maximum of 30 years.

“I’ve come full circle in my life back to where I was when I grew up in St. Cloud,” Petters said, speaking directly to Judge Kyle.

“Maybe I thought the world revolved around me. But I lost my way big time. I am sorry I lied in your courtroom. It’s a horrible excuse, but I lied. And I am begging for forgiveness today.’’

Petters, 56, said he would have taken a plea offer of 30 years back in 2009 before his trial.

“I would have taken the 30-year cap if I had known that I did not have to go to trial, as God as my witness,’’ Petters testified. He is currently four years into the 50-year sentence.

The hearing came to a close late Wednesday with testimony from Petters’s original defense team, all three of whom said the Wayzata businessman was told more than once of a possible plea deal.

Judge Kyle did not immediately rule on Petters’s motion for a new sentencing and gave attorneys until Nov. 5 to file their final briefs on the matter.

Petters, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit over a white T-shirt, was subdued as he testified that his defense attorneys never told him about a possible plea agreement until after he was convicted.

In an exchange with his current lawyer Steven Meshbesher, Petters was asked: “If you had known of the offer would you have accepted it?’’

Petters: “Yes I absolutely would have.’’

Meshbesher: “Would you have pleaded guilty?’’

Petters: “Yes.’’

Meshbesher: “Are you guilty?’’

Petters: “Yes.’’

Under questioning by acting U.S. Attorney John Marti, Petters repeatedly insisted that he lied during his 2009 trial when he denied his guilt.

“I wanted to come in here and right the wrongs,’’ Petters said.

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  • Tom Petters

  • FILE - This undated file photo provided by the Sherburne County, Minn., Jail via KSTP-TV shows Minnesota businessman Tom Petters who was found guilty of orchestrating a $3.7 billion Ponzi scheme. A federal appeals court upheld his 2009 conviction and 50-year prison sentence on Friday, Dec. 9, 2011, ruling that Petters got a fair trial. (AP Photo/Sherburne County Jail via KSTP-TV, File) TV OUT ORG XMIT: MIN2012101517340979

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