Another appeal, another denial for convicted businessman Tom Petters as he attempts to revisit his 2010 criminal conviction and 50-year prison sentence.
The latest court action happened fast as U.S. District Judge Richard Kyle on Tuesday rejected Petters’ latest motion less than 24 hours after it was filed.
Kyle’s order was succinct: “Defendants motion to alter or amend [a previous ruling] is denied.”
Petters’ motion this week was his second attempt in the past four months to have Kyle removed from the case in order to pursue a previously denied motion for a new, reduced sentence on the grounds that his defense attorneys failed to adequately inform Petters of a plea bargain offer from federal prosecutors.
“The system allows inmates to file pro se motions [on their own behalf],” said Minneapolis criminal defense attorney David Valentini. “I don’t know how many have merit, but many get rejected out of hand.”
Valentini, who didn’t have any clients in the Petters case, noted that Petters “had a lot of good lawyers” representing him earlier in the case and that it was probably “a no-brainer” for Kyle to reject the most recent filings.
Petters contends that Kyle has a conflict of interest in the case because his son is an attorney at the Minneapolis law firm of Fredrikson & Byron, which provided legal services to Petters and his businesses before his arrest on fraud charges for his role conducting a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme.
Petters also asserts that the indictment used to convict him was flawed because it lacked the signature of the grand jury foreperson who oversaw its submission to the court and was amended to remove two of his companies as defendants at his 2009 trial.
Kyle previously has ruled against both of those arguments, stating in February that “there is no suggestion that my son … was involved in his [Petters’] defense at trial or provided legal services to him or his companies.”
Kyle also ruled that the flawed indictment contention is an attempt “to bootstrap new arguments to … evade procedural hurdles.”
In a new twist on his previous arguments for a rehearing on his conviction, Petters states that “unknowing investors” in his scheme are “innocent victims” now facing clawback lawsuits to recapture their profits. Petters said if he had not been convicted, “There would be no clawbacks.’’
Petters currently is serving a 50-year sentence at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. Petters and a small circle of allies were guilty of taking investor funds under the guise of purchasing fake consumer electronic goods for sale to big-box retailers. In reality new investor funds were used to pay off old investors and help finance other Petters business interests.