Sentencing has been delayed again for Modesto real estate investor Andrew Katakis on a bid-rigging conviction while prosecutors appeal his acquittal on another charge.
Jurors in March declared Katakis guilty of rigging bids at public foreclosure auctions in San Joaquin County and of obstructing justice by trying to throw off investigators. Katakis, who always has maintained his innocence, in May persuaded a federal judge to throw out the obstruction verdict, and Katakis subsequently asked to redo the whole trial, saying bad evidence leading to the improper conviction tainted everything.
Meanwhile, prosecutors appealed the May acquittal. It could take a year or more for an appellate court to rule, so prosecutors asked the first judge to go ahead and sentence Katakis on the bid-rigging count.
Prosecutors argued that 11 conspirators pleaded guilty and some “have cooperated with the government for years,” including testifying at Katakis’ trial. It’s not fair to hold up their sentences while the Katakis knot gets untied, prosecutors said in a court brief; a previous delay had canceled sentencing initially set for June.
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Katakis’ new attorneys, hired after the four-week trial, said it wouldn’t make sense to sentence him on one count with the other still up in the air. The two are “inextricably linked,” a document contends, claiming that “spillover from the government’s false and misleading obstruction evidence substantially prejudiced” jurors against Katakis. “It would be fundamentally unfair to allow the bid-rigging conviction to stand when the jury may have been swayed by the government’s repeated and deliberate telling of a story that it knew to be false.”
A judge agreed to wait for the appellate ruling.
In his bid for a new trial, Katakis also said instructions to jurors were convoluted and blamed his defense attorney for failing to call witnesses who could have helped prove his innocence.
Katakis, who owned California Equity Management Group in downtown Modesto and was managing partner of Lenders Financial Group LLC, said that he was duped by middlemen and that authorities ignored evidence that should have cleared him. He and others were accused of cheating at auctions of repossessed homes during the mortgage meltdown in 2008 and 2009 by freezing out honest buyers, splitting proceeds among members of their group and defrauding lenders.
Katakis has moved to the Bay Area.