When Mutual Benefits Corp. Ponzi schemer Joel Steinger filed a Notice of Appeal from his Federal sentence & conviction, I thought he had committed a major procedural error. Steinger had pled out, receiving a 20-year sentence, and in the standard plea agreement, expressly waived his right to appeal. So what was going on ? Steiner spent 26 months in hospital, taking the strongest pain killers for his disabled back. He contends that rendered him incompetent to plead out.
The initial brief, filed by his counsel. Steinger raises these two points on appeal:
(1) The appeal waiver is neither valid nor enforceable, due to the fact that appellant' competency evaluation was given ten months prior to this sentencing, and when he executed the agreement, his severe, debilitating pain caused his self-assessment skills, and ability to reason to be impaired.
(2) The appellant's severe, unbearable pain, and extremely strong pain medications taken, rendered him unable to understand the proceedings, assist counsel in his defense, and to change his please and enter a guilty plea in open court.
In his prayer for relief, his counsel is asking the Eleventh Circuit to determine:
(A) That the appeal waiver in the plea agreement is invalid and unenforceable.
(B) If the appeal waiver is found to be invalid, then the plea agreement is invalid, for the same reasons.
(C) That the guilty plea and sentence should be vacated.
(D At the minimum, Appellant asks that the Court remand the case for a competency evaluation, based upon the significant changes that occurred in Mr. Steinger's condition, between the May 2013 evaluation, and his March 2014 guilty plea and appeal waiver.
Steinger has requested that Oral Argument be had in this case.