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In SDNY Bazemore Seeking To Withdraw Plea to Sex Trafficking Poises For 4th Lawyer

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
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SDNY COURTHOUSE, July 25 – William Bazemore accompanied by his then attorney Bennett M. Epstein entered a plea of guilty to sex trafficking on October 28, 2019 at 2 pm before Judge Analisa Torres of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

    Then at 4:30 pm that day Judge Torres received a letter Bazemore had mailed on October 24 seeking to fire Epstein, stating that he was being pushed into pleading guilty.

   On November 4 Judge Torres convened in her courtroom among others Bazemore, in custody, Epstein and the Criminal Justice Act lawyer on duty for the day. She asked Bazemore if he wanted to relieve Epstein of duty and a new lawyer.

   Bazemore said yes, explaining that he has intimidated or nervous during his October 28 allocution. Judge Torres assigned him a new lawyer but said that even if she grants his anticipated application to withdraw his plea, she will not move the trial date.

   I did not want to get off the wrong foot with you, Bazemore said.   Judge Torres said that he was not, that "I love doing trials" and that she's done hundreds of them.

 On July 23, 2020 Bazemore appeared before Judge Torres again, albeit by CourtCall. Inner City Press covered it.

  Bazemore wanted to fire his new lawyer, Meredith Heller. Ms. Heller spoke, saying perhaps she could have stayed more in touch with Bazemore.

Judge Torres did a one on one break-out with Bazemore, and returned to rule that his "request for reassignment of counsel is denied." She directed that Meredith Heller submitted a letter on July 24 "concerning the Court's question regarding representation."

  Late on July 24, Heller filed that another lawyer should be appointed for a hearing: "RE: United States v. William Bazemore 19-cr-006 (AT) Dear Judge Torres, This letter is submitted per the Court’s request to address whether I should represent Mr. Bazemore at a hearing to determine what he was told by previous counsel regarding the terms of his plea agreement. After considering the issue, I think it would be appropriate, in an abundance of caution, to appoint independent counsel for Mr. Bazemore, solely for purposes of the hearing. I respectfully request that the Court appoint counsel for Mr. Bazemore at this time due to a potential conflict and to ensure that Mr. Bazemore receives impartial counsel. An attorney suffers from a potential conflict when the “interests of the defendant may place the attorney under inconsistent duties at some time in the future.” United States v. Perez, 325 F.3d 115, 125 (2d. Cir. 2003) (quotation marks omitted). An attorney has an actual conflict “when, during the course of the representation, the attorney’s and defendant’s interests diverge with respect to a material factual or legal issue or to a course of action.” United States v. Schwarz, 283 F.3d 76, 91 (2d Cir. 2002) (quotation marks omitted). While unlikely, a potential conflict of interest exists between Mr. Bazemore and me because of the possibility that I may be called as a fact witness, either by Mr. Bazemore or his prior counsel. Any testimony I may give would be on the sole significant contested fact issue – what Mr. Bazemore understood from his prior counsel and what his prior counsel believed they had explained. While the proposed hearing does not involve a jury, obviously, I believe that the Court’s appointment of counsel for the hearing will ensure that Mr. Bazemore has unconflicted counsel. This is especially important considering that Mr. Bazemore has raised numerous concerns about his prior counsels’ impartiality and advice. Hopefully, stepping back in this proceeding will enable me to continue as Mr. Bazemore’s counsel during the continuation of his criminal case. Appointing independent counsel for this issue may be the best way to ensure that the criminal case’s delay will be brief." How will Judge Torres rule? Watch this site.

    The US Attorney's Office had put out a press release about Bazemore's plea, including that "BAZEMORE and other members and associates of the Organization used force and coercion to cause a female drug customer (“Victim-1”) to engage in commercial sex for their financial gain, and took actions to prevent Victim-1 and others from cooperating with law enforcement against the Organization."

    On November 4, the Assistant US Attorney said they reserve the right to oppose the application, and that if the plea is withdrawn, the plea offer may not stand. The case is US v. Bazemore, 19-cr-00006 (Torres).


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