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Saturday, February 18, 2017

A QUESTION OF MOTIVATION: Where Is The Criminal Complaint?

Most of the time, ordinary citizens are not legally required to report a crime or to do anything to stop it. In other words, there is no general duty to be a “good Samaritan.”

However, a person charged with aiding and abetting or accessory is usually not present when the crime itself is committed, but he or she has knowledge of the crime before or after the fact, and may assist in its commission through advice, actions, or financial support.

My extensive investigation of the case, written for my fraud/crime blog and featured prominently on Diane Ravitch’s blog, uncovered significant evidence of a conspiracy among Ingersoll, select members of the Grand Traverse Academy’s board of directors, and Bruce Harger, the former head Lake Superior State University’s Charter School Office.

Stunning revelations continued to stream out about Ingersoll's previously undisclosed financial relationships with select board members and the former head of Lake Superior State University’s charter school office — including the December 8, 2015 testimony of former Grand Traverse Academy board president Brad Habermehl, who admitted soliciting a $300,000 “loan” in late 2014 for a “school project” on behalf of his “friend and colleague” Steven Ingersoll — activity that continued during the months even after Ingersoll was convicted. 

In addition, it was later revealed in 2016 that hefty monthly cash payments were made by the Grand Traverse Academy’s current manager (and former board president) Mark Noss to Ingersoll between April 2014 and March 2016, payments that occurred during the years Noss publicly insisted he had “no business relationship with Steven Ingersoll” and had “severed all ties with Smart Schools”. 

So where is the criminal complaint, and why has no one associated with the Grand Traverse Academy, its board of directors or Lake Superior State University acted?

Could the answer simply be many of them were directly involved, and would do anything to avoid the scrutiny an investigation would bring?

How else would you explain this letter written on behalf of Steven Ingersoll by Bruce Harger, the man who headed the Lake Superior State University Charter Office — the entity tasked with overseeing the Grand Traverse Academy?

Harger, not an attorney or even an accountant, even weighed in with his own theory of the case: 

“Unfortunately, the financial records were not as clear as they should have been. The accountant used by Dr. lngersoll died prior to the legal proceedings. The finding that the transfer of funds from the GTA management company to the BCA management company was taxable income to Dr. lngersoll might not have been found had the accountant been alive testify. Had the accountant been available for testimony in the trial, it is probable that a guilty verdict would not have occurred. Minimally, in my opinion, Dr. lngersoll did not intend to evade taxes.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

PRO SE CAN YOU SEE? Steven Ingersoll files “motion to vacate” his sentence, alleging “ineffective assistance of trial counsel” by former criminal defense attorney Martin Crandall.

BREAKING NEWS: Steven Ingersoll, who reported to FCI Duluth on February 2, 2017 to serve a 41 month sentence for his federal tax evasion and conspiracy convictions, filed a “pro se” (“on one’s own behalf”) motion to set aside his sentence on January 24, 2017, seeking “post-conviction relief” based on what Ingersoll asserted was attorney Martin Crandall’s alleged “ineffective assistance of counsel”. 

Ingersoll filed two documents, collectively exceeding 140 pages.

Beginning today, my exclusive coverage and analysis of Ingersoll's petition for relief. 

Although United States District Judge Thomas L. Ludington has ordered the government to file its response on or before February 27, 2017, Ingersoll's filing ranges from mewling kitten to just absolute, bat-shit crazy. It deserves to be exposed...and ridiculed!

The circus is back in town!  


A little backstory: on September 21, 2015, Detroit-based law firm Clark Hill filed a breach of contract complaint in Bay County's 18th Circuit Court, seeking payment of an outstanding $360,371.81 legal fee balance for representing Steven Ingersoll. 

Just days before a scheduled October 19, 2016 civil trial was set to begin, Ingersoll and his former criminal defense firm, Detroit-based Clark Hill PLC, reached a confidential, out-of-court settlement.

The experience chapped Ingersoll's ass, as you can clearly see in this excerpt from his January 24, 2017 petition:

On December 23, 2014, in violation of Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, Martin Crandall, suggested under threat of withdrawal of representation, that Petitioner Ingersoll accept an $86,000 personal loan from his wife, Dianna Crandall. 

Crandall instructed Petitioner Ingersoll to deposit the $86,000 into a little used personal account, purchase a cashier’s check of like amount naming Clark Hill as payee and return via express mail to be received before the end of the calendar year to Crandall’s attention at his Clark Hill office address. 

The funds were to be applied against Ingersoll’s outstanding balance as the means of avoiding withdrawal from representation. Crandall did not mention that Court approval was a requirement of withdrawal.

And Grand Traverse Academy attorney Margaret Hackett's March 3, 2015 trial testimony still rankles Ingersoll, who attributes Crandall's ineffective cross examination of Hackett a major contributory factor leading to his conviction. 

On March 3, 2015, government witness Meg Hackett was admitted to provide limited testimony after the Court overruled motions to quash from GTA and relevance objections from the defense. The Court agreed to allow testimony limited to her conversation with Dr. Ingersoll at a May 20, 2013 meeting regarding transactions between GTA and SSM.

At the heart of Ingersoll's ineffective assistance of counsel claim are these contentions:

To obtain relief under § 2255 on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel, [Dr. Ingersoll] must establish (1) that his lawyer’s performance was deficient as compared to an objective standard of reasonable performance and (2) that there is a reasonable probability that the lawyer’s errors prejudiced the outcome of the proceedings against him. 

A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome”; it is a less demanding standard than “more likely than not.” Both elements are present here as described below. 

1. Ingersoll’s legal assistance was deficient as compared to an objective standard of reasonable performance. 

Ingersoll’s legal assistance was constitutionally deficient because his lead counsel, Martin Crandall, failed to adequately investigate witnesses, learn the case and violated the rules of professional conduct causing ineffective assistance by: 

1) Inadequate cross examinations;
2) Depriving the jury of expert tax accounting testimony promised in opening statement; 
3) Negligently advising Ingersoll to exercise his 5th amendment privilege; 
4) Failing to provide cogent closing arguments. 

Eliminating the testimony of Ingersoll and Hammel left gaping holes in the defense leading to conviction. Even if advice not to testify were deemed justifiably strategic, Mr. Crandall’s failure to deliver a cogent closing argument, upon which Ingersoll relied in deciding not to testify, ensured conviction. [NOTE: 'Hammel' refers forensic accountant David J. Hammel, whose firm was reportedly paid $150,000 to provide Ingersoll with protective cover.]

Mr. Crandall failed to understand the tax charges or defense.

Although Mr. Crandall was present and contributed to discussions of Ingersoll’s tax defense strategy, his closing argument revealed his failure to comprehend both the tax charges and the defense. 

Mr. Crandall failed to effectively cross examine Meg Hackett.

He failed to point out that the universe of her testimony involved topically and temporally irrelevant transactions between GTA and SSM. He failed to impeach Hackett as she repeatedly conflated the identity of SSM and Ingersoll sometimes at Crandall’s bewildered invitation. 

Mr. Crandall failed to establish that Hackett had been invited to analyze the GTA-SSM transactions by Kaye Mentley, not the GTA Board, as Hackett had testified. 

Mr. Crandall’s negligent cross examination allowed Hackett’s testimony to expand far beyond the Court’s intended relevancy lints that the Court and counsel from both sides subsequently struggled to find appropriate remedy. 

Mr. Crandall’s 5th amendment advice was constitutionally deficient.

On the evening of March 4, 2015, Mr. Crandall vigorously advised Ingersoll not to deliver his well-prepared intended testimony. Mr. Crandall argued that dismissed Count 1 and GTA-SSM transactions having been ruled irrelevant left all remaining counts to be handily defeated with his closing argument.

Fear of exposing his professional misconduct may have motivated Mr. Crandall’s uncharacteristic vigorous opposition to Ingersoll’s testimony in the face of dissent from Mr. Geht. 

Mr. Crandall made ineffective closing arguments.

Martin Crandall failed to present Ingersoll’s defense in his closing arguments. 

Mr. Crandall inexplicably failed to stress the main elements of Ingersoll’s well-prepared and heavily discussed defense. 

Mr. Crandall stumbled from one irrelevant topic to the next while neglecting the agreed upon vital defenses. 

2. There is a reasonable probability that Mr. Crandall’s errors prejudiced the outcome of the proceedings against Ingersoll. 

Martin Crandall’s conduct failed both prongs of the well-established Strickland test for ineffective assistance of counsel. 

Mr. Crandall’s failure to learn and articulate an effective tax defense resulted in conviction. 

Although Mr. Crandall was present and contributed to discussions of Ingersoll’s tax defense strategy, his closing argument revealed his failure to comprehend both the charges and the defense. 

Mr. Crandall’s failure to comprehend the tax aspects of the case caused him to provide ineffective counsel leading to conviction. 

Mr. Crandall failed to properly examine witnesses. 

Mr. Crandall was ineffective in examination of witnesses, particularly of Meg Hackett and failed to present evidence of flawed government theory, tactics and evidence.

Mr. Crandall failed to effectively examine Meg Hackett

Martin Crandall was ineffective in his cross examination of Meg Hackett. 

He failed to point out that the universe of her testimony was entirely comprised of transactions between GTA and SSM and as such was irrelevant to Ingersoll’s tax charges. 

He failed to impeach Ms. Hackett as she repeatedly conflated the identity of SSM and Ingersoll sometimes at Mr. Crandall’s bewildered invitation. 

Even after the Court sought to slow Ms. Hackett’s Ingersoll/SSM conflagration, Mr. Crandall failed to appreciate the significance of the Court’s hint as Ms. Hackett continued on conflating Ingersoll/SSM identities uninterrupted. 

Mr. Crandall failed to impeach Ms. Hackett’s false testimony that Ingersoll individually owed GTA $3.5 million. 

Mr. Crandall left unchallenged false testimony that she saw reports indicating GTA funds flowed to Ingersoll, individually. 

No transactions between GTA and Ingersoll ever occurred and therefore no such evidence exists. Crandall failed to demand foundational evidence from the government in support of her false testimony. 

Mr. Crandall should have called a discovery foul because the government failed to produced the documents Ms. Hackett purported to have reviewed. 

Mr. Crandall made no attempt to impeach Ms. Hackett’s false testimony that Ingersoll tried to convince the GTA Board to characterize his indebtedness as a loan for tax reasons. Mr. Crandall allowed Hackett to give the Jury the impression that distributions between entities Ingersoll controlled could not lawfully be classified as loans. 

Mr. Crandall did nothing to unwind Ingersoll/SSM conflated identities or help the Jury appreciate the critical difference between irrelevant GTA-SSM distributions from those between SSM/SSI and Ingersoll and/or his entities with disregarded tax status. 

Given Crandall’s closing arguments it is plausible in retrospect that Mr. Crandall did not understand this critical difference himself. Mr. Crandall failed to establish the events Ms. Hackett described temporally outside the scope of the indictment. 

Mr. Crandall not only failed to impeach Ms. Hackett, he actually invited her to reinforce her extremely damaging testimony by encouraging her to agree with him that various regulatory bodies confirmed her findings. 

Mr. Crandall failed to establish that Ms. Hackett had been invited to analyze the GTA-SSM transactions by Kaye Mentley, not the GTA Board, as Ms. Hackett had testified. 

Mr. Crandall failed to impeach Ms. Hackett by asking if she ever attended a GTA Board Meeting. 

Mr. Crandall’s negligent cross examination allowed Ms. Hackett’s testimony to expand and range so far beyond the Court’s intended relevancy limits that the Court and counsel from both sides subsequently struggled to find the appropriate remedy. 

Had Mr. Crandall simply questioned Hackett so the Jury could appreciate GTA-SSM transactions as topically and temporally irrelevant, the jury may well have acquitted Ingersoll. 

But for Mr. Crandall’s disasterous cross examination the impact of Ms. Hackett’s testimony may have been minimal as opposed to pivotal. 

Mr. Crandall’s 5th amendment advice deprived the jury of crucial perspective 

On the evening of March 4, 2015, Mr. Crandall vigorously forbade petitioner Ingersoll from his intended testimony arguing that he could defeat the remaining counts after the Court had dismissed count 1 and ruled GTA-SSM transactions irrelevant. 

Mr. Geht expressed his disagreement by asking if it was reasonable to rely on Jury nullification to defend the tax counts. 

Mr. Crandall was unmoved by Mr. Geht’s input, insisting he would prevail on all remaining counts with his closing arguments. 

Fear of exposing his professional misconduct may have motivated Mr. Crandall’s uncharacteristic vigorous opposition to Ingersoll’s testimony. 

As a predicate to accepting Mr. Crandall’s advice, Ingersoll anticipated Mr. Crandall’s closing arguments would address Mr. Wisniewski’s arithmetic to defeat Ms. Parker’s $934,000 diverted income theory, Mr. Wisniewski’s cherry picked and unsubstantiated assumed income data, deceitful tactics, conflated identities, illogical income tax case in chief and acknowledged factors supporting shareholder as opposed to the lack of evidence supporting the opposite as the defense team had discussed. 

But for Mr. Crandall’s 5th amendment advice, the jury would have likely viewed distributions from SSM/SSI in an entirely different light. 

Ingersoll would have described the Front Porch Plan purpose, geography and integration with Bay City Academy. 

The Jury would have understood the effort and investment as a natural extension of SSM/SSI’s mission and strategic financial plan. 

Had Ingersoll testified, the jury would have heard supporting testimony from Dennis Banaszak, Dan Stahl, Dave Hammel and perhaps a number of other defense witnesses Ingersoll would likely have been acquitted had he taken the stand. 

Yes, had Ingersoll testified, you might have heard from Ingersoll acolyte and semi-professional ass kisser, Dennis Banaszak, whose undated letter (written on official Bay City stationery) is shown above.

Although I'm waiting for the prosecution's response before I write another update, I have to push back on Ingersoll's contentions about Margaret Hackett, particularly his assertion that “Hackett had been invited to analyze the GTA-SSM transactions by Kaye Mentley, not the GTA Board, as Hackett had testified.”

That's some bullshit!

I was in federal court on March 3, 2015, and personally observed Hackett's testimony. (Here's a link to my coverage.)

Although former GTA board president Brad Habermehl testified during Ingersoll's sentencing hearing on October 21, 2015 and claimed former superintendent Mentley had hired Hackett, and Mark Noss concurred in a September 10, 2015 affidavit (“I declare under the penalty of perjury that the foregoing affidavit is true and correct to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief.”), they're both deliberately making untruthful statements...and even Ingersoll knows they're all lying.

How do I know that?

Here's how: Hackett submitted an affidavit on February 23, 2015, prior to testifying during Ingersoll's trial, attesting to the fact that Thrun Law Firm P. C. had been retained by the Grand Traverse Academy since September 2009.

And if you need even more proof that Ingersoll, Habermehl and Noss are all liars, take a look at the 2013 annual Thrun retainer invoice sent to the Grand Traverse Academy roughly four months before that infamous May 20, 2013 meeting.

It was addressed to, and approved by, Steven Ingersoll.

Suck it, you lyin' sacks!