James Draper was such a minor player in the beef plant case that I doubt few even know his name; yet, of all the folks involved, Draper is the one facing the longest sentence – and, if the government gets what it wants, his sentence will be even longer after the Halloween Day hearing. The Clarion-Ledger ran a brief update in today’s paper. h/t Phunk and Wagnalls
James Draper, convicted by a jury for his part in the Mississippi Beef Plant scandal, will be sentenced on Oct. 31. The government is asking Chief Judge Michael Mills to deal more harshly with Draper, a refrigerator salesman from Tennessee, than a pre-sentence report recommends.
Draper was convicted July 23 on two counts — aiding and abetting the interstate transportation of money obtained by fraud, and of money laundering — in bilking the state out of $187,725. The government filed a four-page motion Tuesday urging Mills to consider that Draper lied during his two-day trial in U.S. District Court.
Based on the charges against him, it would seem Draper had no information to trade for a lighter sentence – but there’s more to the story of this puzzling aspect of the beef plant case tan the charges against Draper suggest:
Draper was accused of receiving a $187,725 check from the state to purchase equipment for the plant, but items were not purchased. He then gave Hall $167,725 and kept $20,000 for himself, according to the indictment.
A reader comment from the last SLABBED post indicates some think Draper is the “fall guy” of the beef plant case.
It stands to reason that Mr. Draper is taking the hit for everyone else in this case he took only $20,000 that was actually owed to him for time invested in laying and sizing the equipment for this plant. You want to find the real guilty parties trace the millions that are missing. They are using him as a fall guy. 30 years for $20,000 owed to him you have to be kidding.
I’ll have to admit that I was shocked at his conviction – particularly since he has been represented by the highly regarded Oxford attorney Kenneth Coghlan who waged a vigorous defense, including an unsuccessful effort to have Draper acquitted after the jury trial ended with his conviction.
It’s evident from the government’s sentencing position that Draper compounded his problem by lying to the FBI during the early investigation and admitting that he did during his trial:
The evidence at trial established that Draper gave three statements to the FBI, two of which were blatantly false. The third statement and his testimony before the grand jury established that he had, in fact, participated in a scheme with Richard Hall to defraud the State of Mississippi and laundered the proceeds of that scheme.
However, at trial Draper recanted his signed admission and testified under oath that he had earnestly attempted to purchase equipment listed on the false invoice, that he was owed the $20,000 for expenses related to that purchase and that the third statement given to the FBI was fabricated and coerced by the agent. The jury, through it’s verdicts of guilty, obviously found Draper’s testimony to be false…
James Draper’s testimony was far from a mere denial of guilt. From the evidence adduced at trial and from the verdict of the jury, Draper’s testimony was materially false. Richard Hall testified that he and Draper were well aware that the equipment listed on the invoice to obtain the money was not for sale. He also testified that Draper was well aware of the scheme and knowingly participated in it. Although he denied the above in his first and second statements to the FBI, in his third statement and in his testimony before the grand jury he acknowledged his active participation in the scheme.
However, at trial Draper, in great detail, recanted those statements. He testified that if there was any scheme to defraud that Richard Hall was the only knowing participant. Although the evidence established that he had received a copy of the bogus invoice on his defunct company’s letter head, he denied such. He stated that he had made numerous trips to the company and believed that he could purchase the equipment. However, the evidence established that Draper knew well and good that the equipment had not been purchased when the invoice was submitted or when he received and deposited the check.
Finally, Draper testified that Special Agent Sypniewski fabricated his third statement and coerced his signature thereon with threats. Although there was significant documentary evidence and testimony establishing the defendant’s guilty, the government’s case was significantly bolstered by his statements and grand jury testimony. Without the statements, Draper’s defense that it was Hall and not he who had defrauded the State could have been credible. Thus, Draper’s testimony at trial was designed to substantially affect the outcome of his trial in that, if believed, would most likely result in a verdict of not guilty.
The government is asking Northern District Federal Judge Mike Mills to consider this perjury and enhance his sentence accordingly. Mills earlier granted Coghlan’s motion for additional time to respond to the presentencing report, now due the 26th of October. We’ll be back then with the rest of this story until the Halloween sentencing date.