United States District Court, W.D. New York
OPINION AND ORDER ON MOTION TO WITHDRAW FILED BY ATTORNEY DAVID COTTER AND MOTION TO DISMISS COUNSEL FILED BY DEFENDANT CLIFTON JACKSON (Docs. 117, 118)
GEOFFREY W. CRAWFORD, District Judge.
Following a two-week trial, defendant Clifton Jackson was convicted on January 23, 2015 of fifty-eight felony counts. The charges against him concern a conspiracy to file fraudulent tax returns in order to obtain refunds. Much of the evidence against Jackson consists of testimony from co-defendants, especially Destinee McBride and her brother DeWayne Vass. Jackson is currently awaiting sentencing, which is scheduled for June 29, 2015.
The relationship between Jackson and his appointed attorney David Cotter has been strained for some time due to Jackson's determination to file his own pleadings with the court. The most recent of such filings, dated April 24 and April 29, 2015, contain allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct in withholding discovery from the defense. (Doc. 117.) The documents include a request for the dismissal of Cotter from the case. (Id. at 54.)
In response, attorney Cotter has moved to withdraw as counsel for Jackson. He cites an actual conflict of interest. (Doc. 118 at 3.)
Jackson was indicted on April 26, 2013 on sixty-six counts, including one count of conspiracy to unlawfully use social security numbers, one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, twenty-two counts of making false claims, twenty counts of social security fraud, one count of theft of government property, and twenty counts of aggravated identity theft. The other co-defendants were DeWayne Vass, Destinee McBride, and Sheri Becirovic. All pled guilty prior to Jackson's trial.
The trial commenced on January 13, 2015. The witnesses can be divided into three groups:
(1) Co-defendants such as McBride and Vass, who testified that they worked with Jackson in filing or attempting to file approximately eighty-five false tax returns on TurboTax;
(2) People whose social security numbers and other personal information were used to create the false returns. In several instances, one person in a family group knew Jackson because he sold them illegal drugs. That person would recruit others in his or her circle of friends and family to provide personal information;
(3) Witnesses from law enforcement, the U.S. Postal Service, financial institutions, and internet providers, who testified about various steps in the process of filing the fraudulent returns.
a. Testimony of Destinee McBride
Destinee McBride's testimony was the most important evidence against Jackson. She described how he recruited her to provide an internet connection for him. He drove her repeatedly to a house in the Buffalo suburbs where she logged on and he took over - typing in the information for one false tax return after another. Jackson's principal line of defense has been that McBride and members of her family are responsible for the false returns and have lied in order to shift the blame to him.
McBride's testimony was supported in many details by the testimony of the other two groups of witnesses. Jackson's use of the exactly the same income and withholding figures in many false returns supported McBride's testimony that one ...