John Balazs is an attorney in Sacramento, California, specializing in criminal defense, including appeals, habeas corpus, pardons, expungements, and civil forfeiture actions. After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1989, he clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. John was an Assistant Federal Defender in Fresno and Sacramento from 1992-2001. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in clinical trial advocacy at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. Please email EDCA items of interest to Balazslaw@gmail.com. Follow me on twitter @balazslaw.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. The law can change rapidly and information in this blog can become outdated. Do your own research or consult with an attorney.
This Sacramento Bee editorial today supports Judge Karlton's recent ruling finding Propositions 89 and 9 unconstitutional for retroactively changing the rules for parole hearings in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Five people have been charged in federal court in Sacramento for their alleged involvement in a tax fraud conspiracy for filing multiple false tax returns claiming a first-home buyers credit run from the Citrus Heights business VK Tax Services. Sacramento Bee, 3/5/14
After listening to a prosecutor say that losses to victims of fraud perpetrated by Sacramento-area businessman Deepal Wannakuwatte total $150 million and the government's evidence against him is strong, a federal magistrate judge [Allison Claire] on Thursday ordered Wannakuwatte held without bail as a flight risk.
[Gold River businessman Steven K.] Zinnel was an investor in a Carmichael-based electrical infrastructure company and in real estate. By the time he filed a voluntary bankruptcy petition on July 20, 2005, Zinnel had concealed millions of dollars in assets by putting them in other people’s names.
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In sentencing the 50-year-old Zinnel Tuesday to 17 years and eight months in prison, imposing a $500,000 fine, and ordering him to forfeit to the United States real estate and corporate assets worth more than $2.8 million, U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley had some harsh words.
Describing Zinnel as “narcissistic,” Nunley cited the repeated deception of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the court’s trustee, and state family court as evidence of Zinnel’s culpability in the complex fraud and money laundering scheme.
“You don’t lie before a court of law,” Nunley told him. “You don’t continue to lie, which is what you did.”
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Prosecutors believe it is the longest prison term for bankruptcy fraud ever meted out in the federal courts that make up the Sacramento-based Eastern District of California.
In Richards v. Prieto, No. 11-16255, the Ninth Circuit (Judges O'Scannlain, Thomas, and Callahan) held in an unpublished decision that, in light of Peruta v. County of San Diego, No. 10-56971 (9th Cir. Feb. 13, 2014), the EDCA district court "erred in denying plaintiff's'] motion for summary judgment because the Yolo County [concealed gun permit] policy impermissibly infringes on the Second Amendment right to bear arms in lawful self-defense." Judge Thomas concurred. Absent Peruta, Judge Thomas "would hold that the Yolo County's 'good cause' requirement is constitutional because carrying concealed weapons in public is not protected by the Second Amendment" and, alternatively, even if it did, the policy would survive intermediate scrutiny.
A federal court judge has found two California laws that resulted from ballot initiatives – including the so-called “Victims’ Bill of Rights” – to be unconstitutional.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton of Sacramento said the state’s implementation of the laws improperly changed the punishment for crimes committed before the laws were enacted.
Proposition 9, a ballot initiative passed by the voters in 2008, and Proposition 89, passed by the voters in 1988, “retrospectively increased punishments, in violation of the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” Karlton declared Friday in a 58-page order.
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Proposition 9, the so-called “Victims’ Bill of Rights” or “Marsy’s Law,” mandated longer periods of time between parole hearings, which Karlton said results in a risk of longer sentences for prisoners than they faced when their crimes were committed.
Proposition 89 granted the governor the right to review and reverse paroles already approved by the Board of Parole Hearings in murder cases. Karlton said every governor since passage of the measure has abused that power by blocking a large majority of the paroles they reviewed.
The judge issued an injunction blocking state enforcement of the two laws.
The EDCA U.S. Attorney has charged seven persons with conspiracy to defraud the United States in a scheme that allegedly used the identification of prison inmates in Susanville state prison to make fraudulent tax refunds. Sacramento Bee, 2/27/14
Long rumored, Judge Karlton announced during his criminal calendar this morning that he intends to retire at the end of August. With a still vacant district judge slot in Fresno, this will only increase the excessive caseload of existing EDCA district judges.
His son received leniency [6 months], but disgraced real estate executive Carlyle “Carl” Lee Cole was sentenced Monday to 17 1/2 years behind bars — the full term recommended by prosecutors — for participating in Bakersfield’s most notorious mortgage fraud conspiracy.
The sentences reflected what U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill called a “tragedy at all levels.” He described the situation as a hard-working son being lured into his father’s “egregious, planned, white-collar heist.”
Faced with the dilemma of conflicting state and federal mandates, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said he will adhere to newly enacted state law requiring that law enforcement agencies not honor federal immigration detainers placed on inmates at county jails.
In doing so, Jones is bucking federal law and overturning a practice long held at the Sacramento County Main Jail. But Jones said he made the decision in part to build trust among communities whose members might otherwise fear that by calling the Sheriff’s Department, they could risk deportation.
“My concern is not with the enforcement of federal immigration law, I have little interest in doing so,” Jones told reporters Thursday. “My greater concern as sheriff of Sacramento County is ensuring victims of crime and people (who need help) ... have the ability without fear to call the Sheriff’s Department and get a response.”