Townsend Petition to Vacate Sentence Denied

Rachel Dollar —  August 13, 2015 — Leave a comment

Calvin A. Townsend was indicted in a twenty-six count indictment, along with twenty other co-defendants, for participation in a mortgage fraud scheme headed by ringleader Bobbie Brown. Townsend, a licensed real estate agent and owner of Custom Home Service Corporation, was charged with bank fraud and mail fraud. He pled not guilty and, along with five other co-defendants, was tried before a jury. On July 8, 2011, the jury found Townsend guilty on all counts.

Townsend filed a petition with the District Court for the Northern Division of Illinois seeking to vacate, set aside, or correct the resulting 118 month sentence. He argued that he had ineffective assistance of counsel, exculpatory evidence was excluded, and argued further that there was a conspiracy to obstruct justice between his attorneys, the prosecutors, and the trial judge (the same judge hearing the petition to vacate.) The judge recused himself on the claims that he (the judge) had personally engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice and considered the remaining requests for relief.

Townsend claimed the government fabricated, altered, and/or withheld certain documents, including records pertaining to profits and losses, a document entitled, “Transfer of the property or a beneficial interest in borrower,” an installment sales contract, an affidavit regarding the occupancy and financial service of property, prepayment penalty disclosures, and a quit claim deed.  Townsend did not, however, demonstrate that the documents were suppressed, altered, or fabricated, or that they were exculpatory. Instead, many of the documents were publicly available, were not possessed by the government, or were produced during discovery and reviewed by counsel, who, after consideration, made a strategic decision regarding how, if at all, to use them at trial. Townsend communicated his belief that these documents were the basis for an acquittal to his attorney.  His attorney replied that the next step would be an appeal. Townsend decided to dismiss his appeal and file the petition to vacate. According to the opinion, the documents failed to demonstrate Townsend‘s innocence and further demonstrated that Townsend knew he was required to raise the claims on appeal. The court rejected this argument as a basis for vacating the conviction or sentence.

Townsend also argued that his attorneys provided ineffective legal assistance, pointing to various strategic decisions made by counsel, including arguments he believes should have been made, documents that should have been presented, and witness testimony that should have been challenged as false. Townsend failed to present any evidence that the strategic choices made by counsel fell below an objective standard of reasonableness in fact, the email communications produced by Townsend demonstrated that he was in contact with his counsel and involved in the decisions. The court found that the evidence showed that “distinguished counsel, both of whom have appeared before this Court on numerous occasions, made reasonable strategic decisions which were discussed with and agreed to by Townsend, were diligent, and advocated zealously in their representation of Townsend.“ The court rejected this argument.

The motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence was denied. The Judge submitted the claims against himself to the Chief Judge and the Executive Committee to determine whether the claims should be heard by another judge.

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Rachel Dollar

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