SALT LAKE CITY — Imprisoned businessman Jeremy Johnson claims in an appeal of his criminal conviction that the federal judge in the trial was biased.
Johnson further argues in a new 10th Circuit Court of Appeals filing that the indictment against him didn't allege and the government didn't prove the crimes for which he was convicted.
A jury last March found Johnson guilty of eight counts of making false statements to a bank in connection with his once multimillion-dollar online marketing company, iWorks. At the same time, jurors acquitted him of 78 counts of bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
U.S. District Judge David Nuffer sentenced Johnson to 11 years behind bars. Johnson, 41, is incarcerated in a low security prison in Taft, California.
According to the appeal, Nuffer violated Johnson's right to due process and a fair trial due to a lack of neutrality and showing hostility toward Johnson and his co-defendants and their lawyers. Johnson represented himself during the trial.
Nuffer even suggested at one point during the trial that Johnson would be pursuing an appeal.
"It signals that the court expects a conviction, as only a convicted defendant could appeal. It also (incorrectly) suggests to jurors that any uncertainty on their part does not matter because it can be corrected on appeal," Johnson's lawyers Karra Porter and Mary Corporon wrote.
The attorneys also argue that the indictment didn't allege that any of the false statements were communicated to a bank directly or through a third party. Prosecution witnesses testified that the false statements made on merchant account applications never went to the bank, according to the appeal
iWorks offered access to government grant programs to stop foreclosures, pay down debt and cover personal expenses such as utilities, and consumers bought into it at the rate of hundreds of millions of dollars. But many customers who ordered the CDs found they were not as represented and that their credit or debit cards were repeatedly charged for services they didn't sign up for or know about.
Federal prosecutors say iWorks became crippled as waves of credit card chargebacks hit the company, landing Johnson on the Terminated Merchant File list, essentially a blacklist shared between card processors.
To keep the business viable and the money flowing, Johnson began wrapping iWorks in what would ultimately become 37 shell corporations and more than 300 merchant accounts. He used the names of family, friends and employees to set up the accounts, a strategy that prosecutors say was meant to defraud Wells Fargo bank and CardFlex, the card processing company iWorks used.
Johnson is seeking a reversal of his conviction. Short of that he's asking for a new trial or new sentencing hearing.
Johnson also is a key witness in the upcoming trial of former Utah Attorney General John Swallow.