Federal Tax Crimes: Fifth Circuit Affirms Defendant’s Waiver of Counsel Conflict of Interest and Punts on Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claim on Direct Appeal (December 10, 2021)

Jack Townsend has made available for download his article, “Fifth Circuit Affirms Defendant’s Waiver of Counsel Conflict of Interest and Punts on Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claim on Direct Appeal”, published on his Federal Tax Crimes blog. The abstract is as follows:

In United States v. Fields (5th Cir. 12/10/21) (Unpublished and Nonprecedential), here, Fields was found guilty by the jury “of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, and 13 counts of aiding and assisting in preparation and presentation of false tax returns.”  On appeal, Fields argued that “his attorney labored under several conflicts of interest, that the district court should have rejected his waiver of his right to conflict-free counsel, and that counsel was ineffective in failing to advise him to accept the Government’s plea offer.”

Fields’ criminal conduct involved filing about 200 fraudulent returns claiming refunds, some of which were made.  Upon indictment, Fields was represented by three attorneys, one of whom (Dwight Jefferson) during the underlying criminal conduct used his lawyer trust account to cash some of the fraudulent refund checks and deliver the proceeds to Fields net of a fee for his “services.”

The Government raised the issue of possible conflict of interest with Jefferson as Fields’ attorney in the criminal trial.  The district court held two hearings on whether Fields’ validly waived the potential conflict of interest.  In the Fifth Circuit, those conflict of interest waiver hearings are called Garcia hearings.  United States v. Garcia, 517 F.2d 272, 278 (5th Cir. 1975), abrogated on other grounds by Flanagan v. United States, 465 U.S. 259, 263 & n.2 (1984).  Upon the conclusion of those hearings, the district court held that “Fields had validly waived his right to conflict-free representation.”

Click here to view Jack Townsend’s summary of “Fifth Circuit Affirms Defendant’s Waiver of Counsel Conflict of Interest and Punts on Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claim on Direct Appeal”

Posted by Marin Larkin, Associate Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal.

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