A prosecutor on Wednesday filed a motion requesting that a judge summon Richard “Dickie” Meade’s attorneys to court and order them “to show cause as to the basis for a series of continuing allegations of professional misconduct against the United States and the Court.
“The Court has warned counsel for the defense” — Michael Curtis of Ashland and Katherine MacPherson of Grand Rapids, Mich. — “several times throughout the proceedings about the seriousness of making unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor wrote. “Yet Meade’s counsel has continued to do just that.”
If the allegations are true, Taylor’s motion states, then serious misconduct has occurred and the government and the trial judge, Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, should be held accountable. On the other hand, he wrote, if the allegations are false, MacPherson — who was brought into the case following Meade’s conviction in March and whom Taylor said authored the pleadings in which the accusations were made — is the one who should be held accountable.
To that end, Taylor requests Van Tatenhove to conduct a hearing at which MacPherson would be required to produce the evidence upon which she relies in making the allegations, and that she be sanctioned by the court if that evidence is “found wanting.
“Requiring Ms. MacPherson to produce the basis of these allegations will allow the Court to find that the attorneys for the United States have acted unethically, or to impose sanctions on Ms. MacPherson for recklessly levying such serious accusations without a proper basis,” Taylor wrote.
Meade, 66, and Mark Justice, 53, both of Ashland, both were convicted of money-laundering, conspiracy and possessing a motor vehicle with an obscured identification number with intent to sell in a case involving an interstate conspiracy to traffic motorcycles stolen from biker rallies in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Daytona Beach, Fla., and Sturgis, S.D.
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 in February and March and was acquitted.
Meade and Justice were to have been finally sentenced on Aug. 14, but Van Tatenhove opted to delay sentencing until objections to the defendants’ pre-sentencing reports were resolved and until after he has ruled on several post-conviction motions.
Among those motions are one Curtis and MacPherson 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.
Curtis and MacPherson also moved the Court of Appeals to arrest the judgment and dismiss the indictment against Meade, claiming it fails to charge him 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.
Those pleadings are the sources of the accusations for which Taylor says he believes MacPherson and, to a lesser degree, Curtis, should be held accountable.
Among the allegations to which Taylor takes issue:
‰ Van Tatenhove, just before releasing the jury to deliberate, instructed it to ignore all of Meade’s character witnesses because their testimony wasn’t evidence.
“As there was no legal justification for such an instruction, it would not only be legally erroneous, but would constitute misconduct by the Court to have instructed the jury in such a manner,” Taylor wrote. “Ms. MacPherson claims to have three witnesses that heard the Court give that instruction. Yet Ms. MacPherson has not provided affidavits, or even named those individuals.”
‰ Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Roth repeatedly mouthed phrases such as “yeah, right” to jurors while Meade’s character witnesses were testifying.
According to Taylor, MacPherson has maintained she has an eyewitness who intends to file a letter verifying that claim. But, he wrote, that hasn’t happened, and he argues the witness should be required to come to court and testify under oath.
‰ The government knew there was no jurisdiction in the case and drafted the indictment in the manner it did to disguise the defect and specifically because it allowed Meade to be prosecuted.
“It is one thing to argue the government is legally wrong, or was too liberal in its interpretation of the scope of a statute,” Taylor wrote. “It is quite another to assert that the prosecutors conspired to frame an innocent man. If Ms. MacPherson has evidence of a government conspiracy to commit fraud, she should bring it forward. To simply make such accusations without support is reckless.”
‰ Another Assistant U.S. Attorney, Steve Smith, was removed from the case misconduct.
In his pleadings, Taylor calls that allegation a blatant falsehood and goes on to explain that Smith stepped aside on medical advice and subsequently took six weeks of medical leave.
‰ The government acted in bad faith by preventing Robert Jason Chapman of Cleves, Ohio, one of the ringleaders of the conspiracy, from testifying “based upon his plea agreement” and because he wouldn’t say what prosecutors wanted him to say. However, according to Taylor, the government objected to Chapman’s testimony because it was informed by his attorney that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege and refuse to answer any questions on cross-examination that would “test the veracity” of his direct testimony.
“Ms. MacPherson does not support her incredibly serious allegations with any objective evidence,” Taylor wrote. “Instead, she simply appears to believe that, because the United States and potentially the court, do not agree with her legal arguments, there must be misconduct afoot. Yet claiming that the United States and the Court are conspiring to prosecute and imprison a man that has committed no criminal offense will not be taken lightly.”
KENNETH HART can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or