A Summit County judge has rejected a defense argument that former Evergreen Corp. executive David Willan’s mandatory 10-year prison term for a 2009 racketeering conviction should be significantly reduced as unduly harsh.
Akron’s 9th District Court of Appeals had previously sent the case back to the trial court for reconsideration of the sentence under the primary offense of “engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.”
Judge Eve Belfance, who authored the majority decision that reversed all but a handful of Willan’s 69 felony convictions, found that the Ohio Legislature’s main intent for such a crime was to apply enhanced prison sentences for major drug offenses and human sex trafficking crimes under the so-called RICO laws.
Summit County Judge Thomas Teodosio held the resentencing hearing in mid-October, then upheld the enhanced sentence in a Nov. 6 ruling — with no comment in the court record.
Willan’s lead defense attorney, Bill Whitaker, called the ruling “a miscarriage of justice.”
Such enhanced penalties originally were enacted in 1970 under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, for crimes by the Mafia.
Willan, 43, remains behind bars at Marion Correctional Institution, awaiting another appeal of Teodosio’s ruling.
In what is solely a white-collar criminal case, Willan already has served more than four years of a 16-year sentence.
A 2007 secret indictment, originally containing 147 counts, followed an FBI raid that summarily shut down his Akron-based Evergreen business offices on West Market Street.
At the time of the raid, Whitaker said, all of Evergreen’s investors still were being paid.
The underlying offenses for Willan’s most serious conviction, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, were three felonies for false representation in the registration of high-interest-yielding Evergreen securities.
Trial testimony showed that the false statements were made in three separate public offerings — on only one line of a multipage securities registration form.
“I think it’s a miscarriage of justice that Mr. Willan is required to spend 10 years in prison for the single act of signing one form on the advice of his lawyer, which he believed to be correct at the time, and which he and his lawyer believe to be correct to this date,” Whitaker said.
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh disagreed.
“David Willan caused investors, many of whom were retirees, to lose millions of dollars,” she said. “He deserves to serve every day that he was sentenced to prison. Judge Teodosio was correct to uphold the original sentence.”
In the October hearing in Teodosio’s court, Whitaker told the judge that an attorney from one of Akron’s most prestigious firms had reviewed and completed the form for Willan and continues to believe it did not violate any state securities laws.
Willan’s 10-year term originally was interpreted by the trial judge as a mandatory sentence. But under the 9th District ruling, the court found that the penalty should have been a “discretionary sentence” in the range of three to 10 years.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.