Federal prosecutors say Ernie Pitt should not get $90,000 back

October 17, 2012

Winston-Salem Journal on October 17, 2012 released the following:

“By: MICHAEL HEWLETT

Federal prosecutors have told Ernie Pitt, the former chairman of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem, that he should not get back the $90,000 he paid before his conviction on mail fraud charges was overturned in June.

Chris Clifton and Michael Grace, Pitt’s attorneys, filed a motion earlier this month in U.S. District Court asking that federal prosecutors return the $90,000 that Pitt paid in fines and restitutions related to his conviction on two counts of mail fraud in 2009. In June, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond overturned that conviction.

But in court papers filed last Thursday, federal prosecutors said Pitt is not entitled to that money because it has already gone to the victim in the case – the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem – and the Crime Victims Fund. At most, the federal government could return $6,000 of the $90,000 as well as a $200 assessment that Pitt also paid.

However, the $84,000 that was paid to the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem is out of the question, federal prosecutors said.

“Granting Defendant’s request for return of the $84,000 would require the expenditure of $84,000 from the United States Treasury and would result in a monetary judgment against the United States,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Chut Jr. said in response to Pitt’s motion.

Clifton declined to comment on the U.S. Attorney General’s response. He said that he and Grace will file a reply in U.S. District Court in about two weeks.

A federal judge will have the final say in the matter, but no hearing date has yet been set.

The dispute over the $90,000 comes as federal prosecutors seek to retry Pitt on the two mail fraud charges.

In their motion, Clifton and Grace argued that without the money, Pitt “is unable to retain counsel of his choice to represent him and that the government’s failure to return said funds is in violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights.”

Pitt, who is the publisher of the Winston-Salem Chronicle, was initially charged with one count of wire fraud, four counts of financial transactions in a criminally deprived property, and two counts of mail fraud. He was convicted of the mail fraud charges after the jury deadlocked on the other charges.

The charges were filed in connection with a land deal involving Pitt and two other men — Tom Trollinger and Reid Lawrence, the former executive director of the housing authority.

In 2003, Pitt and Trollinger were partners in East Pointe Developers. Federal prosecutors alleged that Pitt and Trollinger joined with Lawrence to arrange for East Pointe Developers to buy the Lansing Ridge development, off Carver School Road, at foreclosure for $285,100. The property was then sold to Forsyth Economic Ventures, the housing authority’s nonprofit wing, for $414,000.

Trollinger and Pitt wrote checks to help cover the purchase price of Lansing Ridge and later wrote each other checks for $84,000 with the proceeds from the sale to the housing authority, prosecutors alleged.

Federal prosecutors said Pitt broke the law when he failed to disclose a conflict of interest in the land deal.

Federal prosecutors have scheduled Pitt’s retrial to start Dec. 17, but a request to continue the trial is pending.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

Federal Mail Fraud Crimes

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Federal appeals court hears murder-for-hire case

May 18, 2012

Richmond Times-Dispatch on May 18, 2012 released the following:

“By: REED WILLIAMS

RICHMOND, Va. —
Attorneys on Thursday argued before a federal appeals panel in Richmond the question of whether a death sentence should be reinstated against Justin Wolfe in a murder-for-hire in Northern Virginia.

Wolfe, 31, was convicted in 2002 of hiring Owen Barber IV to kill Daniel Petrole Jr., Wolfe’s marijuana supplier, in Prince William County. Wolfe was sentenced to death.

Barber, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison, testified as the star witness against Wolfe, but he later recanted that testimony in an affidavit stating that Wolfe did not hire him for the shooting.

Barber later recanted the affidavit. Wolfe has maintained his innocence.

Wolfe’s attorneys argue that no jury would have convicted Wolfe without Barber’s testimony against him, but the Virginia Attorney General’s Office contends that enough other evidence existed to convince a jury of Wolfe’s guilt.

In July, U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson overturned Wolfe’s convictions and sentences, criticizing evidence in the case and finding prosecutorial misconduct. Jackson found that prosecutors failed to provide exculpatory information to Wolfe’s attorneys and allowed Barber to give false testimony.

The Virginia Attorney General’s Office appealed Jackson’s ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Katherine Baldwin Burnett, a senior assistant attorney general, argued Thursday before a three-judge panel at the appeals court that the defense had been given full discovery and that the evidence of Wolfe’s guilt was overwhelming at his trial.

Burnett said Jackson was wrong in concluding that Barber’s testimony was the only direct evidence of Wolfe’s guilt. She said Wolfe’s own testimony corroborated the prosecution’s case against him.

Ashley C. Parrish, an attorney for Wolfe, said that Jackson observed Barber “eye to eye and face to face” at an evidentiary hearing before concluding that he found Barber’s recantation credible.

The defense has argued that the prosecution should have turned over to the defense a police report detailing a conversation between Barber and an investigator.

According to the report, the detective named Wolfe as a suspect and said Barber would not get the death penalty if he told the truth.

Burnett argued that prosecutors were not obligated to disclose the report to the defense. “This is not material,” Burnett said.

Parrish argued, however, that the report would have been important because it showed that Barber was told he should name Wolfe “or you’re going to get the chair.”

Parrish also said that Barber testified at the trial that he didn’t know Petrole and that police knew that wasn’t true. “This trial was so tainted,” he said.

Wolfe is still in prison. His mother, Terri Steinberg, attended Thursday’s arguments.

“Now that we’re a little closer to the door, it’s like the time clock moves a little slower,” Steinberg said. “Hopefully this nightmare can be over for our family and we can finally start to heal.”

She added that the proceedings also are hard on Petrole’s family.

The appeals court panel will rule on the case at a later date.

According to authorities, on March 5, 2001, Barber fatally shot Petrole after he pulled up to his town house in Bristow after returning from a meeting at which he had given Wolfe between 10 and 15 pounds of high-grade marijuana.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.