Petters Enlists "Jailhouse Lawyer" For Latest Attempt To Reduce 50-Year Sentence

A former Minnesota businessman currently serving a fifty-year prison term for masterminding the third-largest Ponzi scheme in history has filed yet another motion seeking a reduction in his sentence - this time enlisting the assistance of a "jailhouse lawyer" currently serving time for drug-related charges.  The latest motion filed by Thomas Petters, who was convicted of a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme back in December 2009, seeks to renew his recently-denied attempt to have his sentence reduced and to recuse the presiding judge.  However, the fate of Petters' latest effort may be in jeopardy - the very lawyer that represented Petters in his previous attempt has observed that the subsequent order was not appealable.

Petters claimed that, after his arrest in October 2008, his former attorney failed to convey a plea bargain from the government that would include Petters serving a 30-year prison sentence.  Arguing that this failure to communicate the plea offer constituted ineffective assistance of counsel, Petters sought judicial modification of his sentence from a 50-year term to the 30-year term previously offered  on the basis that Petters would have readily accepted that sentence if he had been aware.  

At an evidentiary hearing in October, Petters was grilled on the witness stand by prosecutors, who claimed Petters would say anything in order to win a sentence reduction.  For the first time, Petters admitted his guilt in the scheme, but countenanced that with the claim that he was not the mastermind and that the scheme was simply a "culmination of ideas that got messed up."  Petters' former attorney also testified that he did communicate the plea offer to Petters, and that Petters had deemed the offer "ridiculous" at the time.  The former attorney, Jon Hopeman, also testified that Petters had instructed him not to settle for anything less than a 15-year term.  

In a ruling issued last month, Judge Kyle rejected Petters' claims in ruling that he received "constitutionally effective counsel and his sentence was not unlawful."  Judge Kyle discounted Petters' version of events, calling it his "final con," and denied the motion.

The latest motion regurgitates the argument that Petters was not provided with the formal plea offer made by federal authorities.  The motion also claims Petters was not allowed to submit a plea of "nolo contendere," also known as a no contest plea, which does not admit guilt but which allegedly would still have allowed Petters to enter into a plea agreement.