United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
OPINION AND ORDER
S. VAN BOKKELEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
thirteen hours of deliberation, the Jury found Mr. Airrion
Blake guilty of lying to the Internal Revenue Service and of
stealing the government's money. Mr. Blake was
represented attorney John H. Davis. Mr. Blake now believes
that Davis provided him with incompetent representation and
filed a pro se motion asking for a new trial. The Court
appointed a new attorney for Mr. Blake, who filed a
supplemental brief to Mr. Blake's motion. Having reviewed
the parties' briefs, the Court denies Mr. Blake's
2012, Mr. Blake was unemployed and broke. To remedy this
situation he concocted a plan. He created the Airrion
Socrates Blake Estate and filed a 1041 tax return on its
behalf. Under penalty of perjury, he represented that the
estate earned $300, 000; at the same time, he represented that
the estate had no income. Next, he represented that the
estate paid him $300, 000 in fiduciary income. And finally,
he stated that $150, 000 was withheld from the estate in
taxes. All of this was a lie: the estate made no money nor
paid out any money, nor was any tax withheld on its behalf.
Nevertheless, in the 1041 tax return, Mr. Blake requested the
IRS to “refund” the “withheld” tax.
Strange though it seem, the IRS issued a check to Mr. Blake.
Blake spent the money quickly. Among other things, he
withdrew almost $60, 000 in cash, spent $680 at Gamestop,
used $10, 000 on a construction project, and enjoyed $700 on
a vacation to Wisconsin Dells.
next year, Mr. Blake attempted the same scheme---indeed
multiple times---but the IRS found the filings to be
trial, Mr. Blake testified that he believed that the scheme
was legitimate. He said he found discussions in Yahoo
chatrooms explaining that everyone was entitled to their
lifetime social security earnings under the theory that, upon
the birth of each U.S. Citizen, the federal government
established a trust for him or her, which could be cashed in
at any time. He told the jury that he filed the return with a
“disclaimer” at the bottom of the first page:
“void where prohibited by law”; so when the
government sent him the check, he thought his scheme was
jury saw otherwise and convicted him of lying to the IRS and
stealing from the government.
after the trial, Mr. Blake fired Davis and moved for a new
trial. He claims that Davis was incompetent. In particular,
Mr. Blake believes that Davis duped him in representing him.
Davis is blind but he convinced Mr. Blake that his blindness
was a temporary condition. According to Mr. Blake, Davis was
unable to represent him properly because he couldn't view
the trial exhibits and couldn't see the jurors' faces
so as to sense how his case was proceeding. Mr. Blake also
believes that Davis did not conduct proper pretrial
discovery, failed to subpoena Social Security records,
believed in bizarre sovereign citizen theories, failed to
call an expert witness, and misunderstood Brady v.
Maryland, 83 S.Ct. 1194 (1963).
prevail on the ineffective assistance of counsel claim, Mr.
Blake must show that Davis's performance was deficient
and that the deficiency prejudiced him. Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). He must establish that
Davis's performance fell below “an objective
standard of reasonableness” and he “made errors
so serious that [he] was not functioning as the
‘counsel' guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.”
Id. at 687-88. Mr. Blake must also show a reasonable
probability that Davis's ineffectiveness affected the
outcome of trial. Id. at 689.
Blake would like the Court to find that an attorney's
blindness is per se evidence of ineffective
assistance. Such a ruling would be an overreach and, in fact,
within the context of this case, erroneous. Despite his
blindness, Davis, with the help of his assistant and Mr.
Blake himself, was quite effective at trial. True, he was
unable to see the displays of the government's exhibits,
but he seemed to know them well. In any event, his theory of
the case---which proved to be quite effective---was that Mr.
Blake was just a naïve tax filer who believed what he
saw on the internet. Under his theory, Davis had no need to
challenge the government's documentary evidence: what
appeared to be fraud on paper was merely a misguided attempt
by his client to cash in his birthright estate. Under this
theory, not being able to see the government's documents
wasn't detrimental to Mr. Blake, and as mentioned above,
Davis was quite familiar with the documents being displayed.
As for the fact that Davis was unable to observe the jury,
Mr. Blake hasn't shown that had he been able to do so,
there would have been a different outcome in the case.
(Moreover, Mr. ...