The Bad Boy Of Wall Street, Ross Mandell, has hired a new attorney … himself.
Over a year after entering federal prison, Ross Mandell is asking a federal court, by filing a 2255 motion, to reverse his conviction and vacate his 12 year prison term on the grounds that his attorney,Jeffrey Hoffman, now with the law firm Blank Rome, had a conflict of interest. A number of inmates file these types of motions when they feel that they have had their Constitutional Rights violated. Mandell took his original case all the way to the Supreme Court after being found guilty in 2011 on various securities charges. However, SCOTUS denied his petition in 2014, so off to prison he went in September 2014. He is serving his prison term in the Miami Federal Correctional Institute.
Mandell’s motion alleges that in November 2006, following the FBI’s raid on Sky Capital, Mandell hired Hoffman to be his criminal attorney. Sky Capital separately also retained Steven Altman, another attorney, to represent the firm in the criminal investigation. According to Mandell, after an initial meeting at the U.S. Attorneys Office in Manhattan, both Hoffman and Altman informed Mandell that Altman had to withdraw as counsel for Sky because he had a separate legal situation he was working out … one that had no affect on the Sky Capital case.
It turns out, Hoffman was representing Altman on a civil case in which the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that in late 2003 and early 2004 Altman engaged in improper professional conduct while representing an individual who was a witness in an SEC administrative proceeding (The Matter of Harrison Securities Inc., AP File No. 3-11084). In November 2010, Altman would receive notice from the SEC that he was permanently denied to appear or practice law before the SEC. In March 2011, U.S. District Judge Richard Holwell reviewed Altman’s motion to have the SEC allow him back into practice but he sided with the SEC. An appellate court affirmed that decision in August 2012.
Mandell says that he was unaware of Hoffman’s legal representation of Altman and that the representation extended into Altman’s actions while he was doing work for Sky Capital.
Mandell, who was adamant about his innocence before, during and after his trial, claims that he urged Hoffman to meet with U.S. attorneys to discuss concerns of the case and he further claims that Hoffman blocked him from speaking directly with the government. As Mandell wrote in his motion, Hoffman called such a move ”TheMartha Stewart” mistake. Stewart was found guilty of obstruction of justice in an insider trading scandal.
Leading up to the Ross Mandell/ Adam Harrington trial in June 2011, Mandell believed that Altman was going to be a witness for the defense. However, during jury selection, the government prosecutors read Altman’s name as one of their witnesses. During the trial, Altman was never called as a witness but his presence was certainly known to everyone in the courtroom. Altman’s name would be mentioned numerous times by different government witnesses and prosecuting attorneys. According to Mandell, he had the impression that not only was his attorney Hoffman representing him, but also Altman, who Mandell now believes was an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Sky Capital criminal case. In his motion, Mandell writes that, ”This actual conflict of interest had an adverse effect on Defendant’s entire defense and rendered the adversarial process fundamentally unfair and unconstitutional.”
Mandell claims that Hoffman denied him the opportunity to seek a guilty plea agreement with the government as five (5) other Sky employees did in exchange for lighter sentences (those five received minimum or no jail time). Mandell speculates that he may have cooperated against Altman in exchange for leniency and that Altman’s interests were put ahead of him by Hoffman.
Mandell also gives us a peek into some behind the scenes drama in his case. According to Mandell, Hoffman wanted to drop Mandell as a client only weeks before his trial was to start because the $1 million he paid in legal fees had been spent. Not wanting to start over with a new attorney so close to trial, Mandell asked for an ex-parte meeting with the presiding U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty. According to Mandell, Judge Crotty ordered Hoffman to continue representing Mandell in the case. It would be one of the few victories that Mandell had in the legal system.
Mandell would lose at trial and Hoffman did not represent Mandell in the subsequent appeals process, a practice that is not that unusual. However, Mandell is now questioning how much of an advocate Hoffman was during trial and whether there was a conflict in his representation of Altman.
Mandell is direct about his claims against Hoffman, writing in his motion that during trial, “Hoffman shied away from Altman’s name during his cross-examinations, trying to protect his friend and other client, while feeding Mandell up as the sacrificial lamb.”
What does Mandell want?
Conduct an evidentiary hearing into Hoffman’s actions
Reverse Conviction And Vacate Sentence
Grant further relief (like a new trial or a chance to enter into a plea agreement)
Mandell has always been one who welcomes a good fight, now his path to freedom means fighting with the attorney who represented him at trial. It is a long shot, but those are the ones that Mandell seems to like.