A former businessman sentenced in 2014 for a mortgage fraud scheme at Rising Fawn, Ga., should have his conviction tossed out and receive a new trial, a defense attorney argued this morning in Chattanooga's U.S. District Court.
Joshua Dobson did not make an informed decision when he exercised his constitutional rights and took his case to trial in 2013, Chattanooga attorney Michael Richardson argued.
And for one simple reason, Richardson said: Dobson's attorney at the time, Chris Townley, allowed his client to turn down a good plea deal without properly explaining the amount of time Dobson faced in prison if he lost.
"At this time ... Townley represented to Joshua Dobson that the government had made a plea offer ... and he would be facing between two and four years in prison," Richardson said.
"Dobson turned down that plea offer, but did so without knowing what his actual sentencing exposure would be, as his attorney did not advise him, at any time, that Dobson could possibly be facing in excess of 10 years."
That didn't tell the whole story, federal prosecutors countered.
As Perry Piper pointed out, the government never formally offered a deal to Dobson, who faced 12 to 15 years in prison at sentencing and is currently serving a 10-year sentence.
Dobson was experiencing "buyer's remorse" and didn't listen to his lawyer, who did in fact tell him losing at trial could result in a more severe sentence, Piper argued.
Piper based some of this argument on Townley, who took the stand and recalled his attempt to score a five-year deal for his client, who faced 12 charges.
Townley said he discussed the deal while prepping for a case that — in U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier's words — was based on a "poorly crafted indictment."
But his client only wanted probation and seemed to dismiss any other options at hand, Townley said.
As the overseeing judge, Collier would have had to approve any plea agreement brought before him.
And today, Collier said he wouldn't have approved a such a deal if the sentencing guidelines called for a different punishment, which he believed did.
Collier took both arguments under advisement, however, and will release an opinion at a later date.