The previous attorney for a former University of Kansas athletics consultant is expected to testify Monday at an evidentiary hearing to determine whether he did a poor job in defending his client during the prosecution of a $2 million ticket scalping conspiracy.
U.S. District Judge Monti Belot wants to hear from Thomas Blubaugh's defense attorney as he considers whether to grant the convicted man's request for a shorter sentence. Blubaugh was sentenced in April 2011 to 46 months in prison after previously pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States through wire fraud, tax obstruction and interstate transportation of stolen property.
Blubaugh, who has been serving time at a federal prison in Oklahoma, has asked a judge to reduce his prison sentence to no more than 33 months.
He contends the court improperly considered the value of tickets for sporting events that had passed, so-called deadwood files, which he had hidden in a private storage facility. Blubaugh also claims he had ineffective counsel, saying his attorney assured him that the prosecutor had promised he would get probation in return for helping the government – even if all the defendants pleaded guilty and the case never went to trial.
Belot said last month he was surprised neither side called Blubaugh's former attorney, Stephen Robison, to testify at last month's hearing on the request. The judge took the rare step of setting another hearing so he could listen to Robison's testimony.
The court also granted a prosecution request seeking copies of Robison's defense file on the case, finding Blubaugh waived attorney-client privilege when he made a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Blubaugh has challenged his sentence in a pleading from prison in which he claims the court erred in allowing the government to use information he provided to adjust the amount of loss attributed to him. He argued his plea agreement prohibited the government from using the previously concealed “deadwood” tickets he turned over in determining his guideline sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hathaway has argued in court filings that prosecutors already knew about the tickets even before Blubaugh told them they had not actually been destroyed. The government also took issue with the claim of ineffective counsel claim by noting that his defense attorney had vigorously pressed the issue of the “deadwood” tickets in two sentencing memorandums and at the sentencing hearing. Hathaway argued in a court filing that an attorney is not ineffective simply for failing to win an argument.
Hathaway also pointed out that the defendant himself acknowledged in his plea agreement that he had not yet provided substantial assistance to the government and that the sentence would be up to the judge to decide.
Blubaugh and his wife, Charlette, the university's former ticket director, were among seven people convicted in a scheme involving tickets to football and basketball games. Five people were convicted of conspiracy and were sentenced to prison terms after all pleaded guilty. Two others who cooperated early with prosecutors were given probation sentences after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of failing to tell authorities about the scheme.