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In SDNY Bazemore Sex Trafficking Plea Sticks Now Amid Covid Wants In Person Sentencing

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon
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SDNY COURTHOUSE, Dec 22 – 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. And on September 22 Bazemore appeared again, this time with his third CJA lawyer, Anthony Cecutti. Inner City Press again covered it.

  Cecutti questioned his client, who said he had been intimidated in pleading, asking rhetorically why he would have taken a sex trafficking plea given that he has nieces, if he hadn't been misled about the consequences of the other offered plea, under the Davis case.

  Then Judge Torres called as witnesses Bennet Epstein and Sarah M. Sacks, both of whom said they thought Bazemore understood that the Davis / not a crime of violence argument was a long shot.

 Judge Torres said she had inquired around and found Epstein and Sacks to be respected, and that she saw no grounds on which to allow Bazemore to withdraw his plea. He tried to speak at the end but was told, the hearing is over. I'm sorry, he said, have a good afternoon.

    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.

Now on December 22, this: "RE: United States v. William Bazemore 19-cr-006 (AT) Dear Judge Torres, This letter is submitted on behalf of my client William Bazemore. Mr. Bazemore’s sentencing is currently scheduled for January 7, 2021. Per your Honor’s Order, dated December 2, 2020, the government and I were to inform you by December 16, 2020 whether Mr. Bazemore consented to remote proceedings. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing lockdowns at MDC, I was not able to speak with him about this issue before yesterday afternoon. Mr. Bazemore has informed me that he does not consent to remote proceedings as he wishes to appear before your Honor in person and have his family present. Therefore, pursuant to Rule 2(B) of the Court’s Emergency Individual Rules and Practices in Light of COVID-19, the matter should be adjourned until a time when it can be completed in person. He does understand that this may result in his sentencing being delayed until the spring of 2021. The government, through A.U.S.A. Jacqueline Kelly, consents to this request."

The case is US v. Bazemore, 19-cr-00006 (Torres).


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