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United States of America v. Rumeal Robinson

December 5, 2011


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wollman, Circuit Judge.

Submitted: September 22, 2011

Before WOLLMAN, BYE, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

Rumeal Robinson was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank bribery, making false statements to a financial institution, and wire fraud and was sentenced to seventy-eight months' imprisonment. Robinson appeals from his convictions and sentence, arguing that the district court abused its discretion in *fn1 denying a continuance to retain different counsel and interfered with Robinson's right to allocution by considering his statements in determining the sentence. We affirm.


Robinson was charged in a thirteen-count indictment for his role in a scheme to defraud a bank in Ankeny, Iowa. He pleaded not guilty. Although initially Robinson retained private counsel, his attorney moved to withdraw because Robinson could not afford representation. Thereafter, the district court appointed J. Keith Rigg to represent Robinson pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3006A. Before jury selection commenced on the first day of trial, Robinson requested permission to be represented by different counsel. Robinson, Rigg, and the district judge met in chambers for an in camera examination of Robinson's request.

Rigg explained that Robinson, who had played basketball in college and professionally, had spoken to alumni from the University of Michigan who had agreed to retain private counsel on Robinson's behalf. Rigg further explained that he and Robinson disagreed over trial strategy. In particular, Robinson wanted to call as a witness a certain unindicted coconspirator who Rigg believed should not be called. Rigg stated, "Based on that and some other disagreements that we've had, Mr. Robinson has informed me that he does not feel confident that I'm the right choice of counsel in this case, which is why he would like to seek other counsel at this time." Hr'g Tr. 3. Rigg then requested permission to withdraw from the case.

In response, Robinson reiterated his concern about Rigg's refusal to call certain witnesses. Robinson also said that he felt he would not "get my fair day in court" or "get a fair deal with him as an attorney." Hr'g Tr. 4.

The district court denied the request, finding it to be a delay tactic. The court noted that Robinson had been indicted more than one year earlier and that the trial had been continued after its date had been firmly set. "If this is a matter you wanted to pursue, it should have been pursued before the trial date. You just can't come in the day of trial and bring a matter like this up to the Court and expect to be accommodated." Hr'g Tr. 5.

Robinson's trial began that day, and he maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings. Following the six-day trial, the jury found him guilty on all counts. At sentencing, Robinson made a lengthy statement to the court, during which he maintained that he was convicted in violation of his constitutional rights. He claimed that the evidence was insufficient to convict him, that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel, and that he received an unfair trial. He claimed that he was merely an unsophisticated debtor and that he was not engaged in a conspiracy or a fraud and did not bribe a loan officer. Robinson compared the district judge to the loan officer and accused both of "manipulat[ing] and play[ing] upon the Defendant's ignorance-ignorance-of law." Sentencing Tr. 34

Robinson also claimed to be a good son who provided for his parents. At trial, Robinson's mother testified that Robinson had transferred the title of her home to secure loans and then spent the loan proceeds. The lender later foreclosed on the mortgage, and Robinson's mother was evicted from her home. At sentencing, Robinson claimed that his mother was not adequately appreciative of the mink coats, exotic trips, and vehicles he had purchased for her and their family.

After Robinson concluded, the district court said,

Mr. Robinson, you have probably turned what was a very difficult task for me into a rather easy task because by your statement today, you demonstrate to me absolutely no remorse, absolutely no acknowledgment of fault. The record is replete with significant fraud that you committed involving numerous other people and defrauding an Iowa bank out of a substantial sum of money.

Sentencing Tr. 36. The district court later again mentioned Robinson's lack of remorse and emphasized the importance of the factor ...

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