The government has fired the latest salvo in a war of words between attorneys in a federal court case involving an interstate motorcycle theft ring.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor last week filed a response to a blistering 17-page pleading by Katherine “Katie” MacPherson of Grand Rapids, Mich., who represents Richard “Dickie” Meade of Ashland.
MacPherson’s filing was in response to a motion by Taylor requesting that U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove summon her to court and order to show cause why she shouldn’t be sanctioned for what Taylor calls “unwarranted and reckless” allegations of misconduct she leveled against the government in previous court pleadings.
In her response, MacPherson maintained she was merely doing her job as a defense as a defense attorney, which is to provide her client with zealous representation and preserve issues for his appeal of his conviction, and that her statements were protected by her right to free speech, guaranteed to her by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
However, in his response, Taylor argues that might be true “if the allegations against Ms. MacPherson were engaging merely in unprofessional name-calling. The government has largely ignored that kind of conduct by her.
“But representing a criminal defendant does not insulate a defense counsel from responsibility for making demonstrably false and unsubstantiated statements about opposing counsel, allegations which, if not addressed, can have significant consequences to those accused.”
Taylor also noted that MacPherson’s response did not even address the most serious allegations she made, including claims that another assistant U.S. attorney was removed from the case for misconduct and was engaged in fraudulent vehicle titling, and that Erin Roth, another assistant U.S. attorney who tried the case, improperly communicated with jurors.
Additionally, Taylor wrote, despite MacPherson’s denials, “she certainly did impugn the integrity of the Court” by stating Van Tatenhove allowed the case to advance when he knew he knew he had no jurisdiction.
In a motion to arrest the judgment against Meade — who, along with Mark Justice, 53, also of Ashland, was convicted in March of money-laundering, conspiracy and possessing a motor vehicle with an obscured identification number with intent to sell — MacPherson has argued the government failed to charge Meade with an actual offense because the definition of money-laundering under which he was convicted didn’t go into effect until 2009 and the transactions that resulted in him being indicted and convicted occurred before then.
Ten defendants were originally charged in the case. Six of them pleaded guilty and received prison sentences ranging from eight months to 10 years. Charges were dismissed against one defendant, and another, George Ferguson of Ashland, was tried along with Meade and Justice and was acquitted.
MacPherson and Michael Curtis of Ashland, who represented Meade at trial, also have filed a motion requesting their client be allowed to remain free on bond while he appeals his conviction to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
In the government’s most recent filing, Taylor said the government “feels that the communications in this case have devolved to such a point that (it) will not be able to progress without the court’s intervention.
“Until the court rules on the substance of (MacPherson’s) allegations, she will continue to make filings and accusations that prevent the case from moving forward to a just resolution,” he wrote.
Taylor also filed a separate response opposing MacPherson’s motion for Van Tatenhove to recuse himself from the case due to what she called the “overwhelming suggestion of partiality and bias” arising from the filing of the government’s show-cause motion.
Taylor argued there are no grounds that would warrant Van Tatenhove’s recusal and that since he had sentenced the other defendants, he was in the best position to finish sentencing proceedings “to promote uniformity.”
However, with regard to the government’s pending show-cause motion, “because the defense has accused the trial court itself of misconduct, the United States understands that the court may be concerned about the appearance of impartiality and would therefore defer to the court’s determination as to the best course of action on that limited issue,” Taylor wrote.
KENNETH HART can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2654.