Scott Chappelle’s Federal Criminal Trial Pushed to May 2022

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Andrew Graham for ELi

Lansing's Charles E. Chamberlain federal building, which houses federal courtrooms for the Western District of Michigan along with a post office.

At yesterday’s status conference for the upcoming federal criminal trial for local real estate developer Scott Chappelle, a new trial date was set for May 2, 2022.

ELi reported earlier this month that negotiations for a plea deal had stalled and the trial would proceed. Chappelle has been criminally charged with tax fraud, bank fraud, and other charges.

Presiding over the case, Judge Hala Y. Jarbou stated yesterday that after months of adjournments, the May date would be “the firm trial date.”

Chappelle was originally indicted in June 2020, meaning that nearly two years will have elapsed from the indictment to the time the trial begins.

“This is going to proceed and come to a conclusion,” Jarbou said to the courtroom on Wednesday, after setting the trial date. 

She stated that the date would not change and she would not be accepting motions to withdraw counsel going forward, barring “extraordinary circumstances.”

The trial is expected to take around three weeks and will run Monday through Friday each week, with court in session from approximately 8:30 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m. each day.

There were several reasons given on Wednesday for waiting until next May to begin the trial, with the main one being that Chappelle has recently brought on new attorneys to defend him in this case. His previous attorneys withdrew citing an unspecified “irreconcilable” conflict of interest.

On Wednesday, Detroit-based attorney Gerald J. Gleeson II of the Miller Canfield firm represented Chappelle. Another Miller Canfield attorney — Thomas W. Cranmer — is also listed as part of the defense team for Chappelle, but Gleeson explained to Jarbou that neither he nor Cranmer would be the main lawyer defending Chappelle. 

Timothy D. Belevetz of the Ice Miller firm will be taking the lead defense role, Gleeson said. 

Belevetz, however, is still in the process of being admitted to practice law in the Michigan Western District federal courts, where this case is being adjudicated. He was present but did not speak during Wednesday’s status conference.

Gleeson said the May trial date request was to allow the defense to prepare fully, since they are new to the case.

“We recognize the court won’t be happy about that,” Gleeson said. 

Jarbou asked if the new defense team had spoken with the attorneys who had previously been defending Chappelle.

Speaking “candidly,” Gleeson told Jarbou that he hadn’t had the opportunity to get discovery materials from Chappelle’s previous attorney — Matthew G. Borgula of Springstead Bartish Borgula & Lynch, PLLC — but they were planning on meeting later on Wednesday after the status conference. Borgula and his legal team were in attendance on Wednesday.

The attorneys involved in the matter are working around scheduling conflicts. Prior to the status conference being called into order, the defense attorneys and prosecutors could be heard discussing potential trial dates. 

The defense suggested June 2022, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Siskind said was “pushing it.” A trial in March 2022 wouldn’t work, nor would February or April, due to conflicts that the defense and prosecutors have with other trials, they explained to each other. Eventually, the two sides could be heard agreeing upon May as a good time to commence the trial.

After the defense and prosecution indicated to Jarbou that they were comfortable with a May trial, she called a bench conference, where the attorneys came up to speak with her privately in front of the courtroom. Sound is played to mask the conversation, and though nothing could be heard, Jarbou appeared to do most of the talking in the brief aside. 

After the bench conference, Jarbou told the court that she had just stressed with the attorneys that they need to get their meetings with each other done and share what discovery materials need to be shared, so as to avoid further delays.

At the end of the status conference, with the prosecution, current defense, and past defense all present in the courtroom, Jarbou again advised them similarly.

“I encourage everyone to start those discussions now,” Jarbou said, suggesting they could even begin in the conference rooms across the hall from her courtroom.

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