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Conour appeals to 7th Circuit to defend self, remove judge

December 11, 2015

Ex-attorney William Conour claims in a jailhouse motion he filed Thursday that the judge who sentenced him to 10 years in prison for wire fraud appears to be biased in favor of prosecutors and must be removed for preventing him from representing himself.

Conour on Thursday filed a typewritten motion on his own behalf with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to remove Chief Judge Richard Young from presiding in Conour’s criminal case in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

The complaint says Conour’s court-appointed defender, Mark Inman, moved to withdraw in late September and that Young took the motion under advisement Nov. 9 but has yet to rule. Conour claims this has deprived him of his right to represent himself.

Young on Tuesday set Conour’s resentencing for 3 p.m. Jan. 14 in Room 349 of the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Indianapolis. Young’s ruling last month declining to allow Inman to withdraw came as Conour asked in pro se motions for release from prison and to represent himself.

“Currently … Mr. Conour has representation by counsel. Thus, the court will only consider filings made by counsel on Mr. Conour’s behalf,” Young wrote in the Nov. 15 order being appealed by Conour. “Any filings Mr. Conour has made on his own behalf … shall be returned to him by the court and, as such, stricken from the record. Similarly, any future filings Mr. Conour makes while represented by counsel will be returned by the court.”

Conour pleaded guilty to wire fraud in 2013 for stealing about $6.7 million from three dozen former personal-injury and wrongful-death clients. He has been ordered delivered to Young’s court next month for resentencing from the Morgantown, West Virginia, Federal Correctional Institution, where he has a little more than six years left to serve on a 10-year prison sentence. The sentence was half the 20-year term the government sought.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in February remanded Conour’s sentence to modify standard uniform special conditions of post-sentence release that did not apply in his case, but Conour is seeking to widen the scope of resentencing.

Now, Conour, 68, asks the 7th Circuit whether Young may indefinitely fail to rule on Inman’s motion to withdraw due to a breakdown in attorney-client relationship. Conour also alleged Young’s failure to rule forced “a conflicted lawyer to represent a reluctant client” and represents “an appearance of bias and prejudice toward (Conour) and in favor of the government.

“The government has never opposed Mr. Inman’s motion to withdraw. Mr. Inman wants to withdraw and the Petitioner wants him to withdraw,” Conour wrote, alleging Young’s failure to rule violates his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.

Previously, Young ordered Inman and assistant U.S. attorney Jason M. Bohm to file a joint statement of issues, which they did Nov. 20, stating, “The most pressing issue for this Court to address is the representation of Conour.

The joint statement said the case was remanded for resentencing primarily to address post-release conditions and that neither the defense nor the government “seeks to re-litigate the guidance (prison term) calculations at resentencing as it appears there is little basis for this Court’s conclusion to be different.”

But a footnote notes that while Conour accepted responsibility at sentencing, he since in pro se motions suggested he committed fraud only in a single case and that he already has overpaid restitution. Conour agreed in his plea deal to pay victims restitution of $6.7 million; the government says so far, less than 10 percent of that total has been collected. The government claims it “will not contest the issue of acceptance of responsibility, unless Conour takes a further action inconsistent with acceptance of responsibility.”

The joint statement noted the numerous difficulties Conour has had dealing with his lawyers.

“Conour initially retained James Voyles, who represented him at the initial appearance. ... Shortly after the charges were filed, Conour dismissed Mr. Voyles as his attorney and retained attorney Richard Kammen. ... (T)his Court allowed Mr. Kammen to withdraw after his relationship with Conour became significantly ‘impaired.’ ... Conour represented himself until the district court, on January 25, 2013, appointed Michael Donahoe and Joseph Cleary with the (Indiana Federal Community Defender). ... The IFCD represented Conour until ... they were allowed to withdraw. ... Johanna Christiansen, an Assistant Federal Public Defender in the Central District of Illinois, was appointed to represent Conour on appeal and entered her appearance following the IFCD withdrawal. ... This Court allowed Ms. Christiansen to withdraw following remand from the Seventh Circuit. ... Mr. Inman entered his appearance shortly thereafter as appointed counsel. ... Mr. Inman moved to withdraw as counsel for Conour ... and that motion is currently under advisement.

“(T)his Court should ask ‘why counsel [can] not carry on, what . . . caused the dispute between lawyer and client, and whether the breakdown in their relationship [is] beyond fixing.’ ... Certainly, Conour’s attempt to change lawyers is nothing new to this case, but he retains the right to represent himself even if ‘the man who represents himself has a fool for a client.’ … Once Conour is brought back to the Southern District of Indiana, this Court should inquire if Conour’s purported ‘waive[r of] the assistance of counsel [is] knowing in the sense that he appreciate[s] the consequences of his decision.’”


 
 

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