After Pleading Guilty Defendant’s Petition Coram Nobis Fails to Reverse his Conviction
Jason Weber pled guilty to a charge of theft of government funds. At the time of the offense, Weber was serving as a postal inspector. The Court sentenced him to a two-year term of probation and ordered him to pay $65,634 in restitution. He has filed a petition for writ of coram nobis, alleging that “new evidence” suggests that his indictment may have been based on “malfeasance and mishandling of evidence” on the part of the government. In United States Of America v. Jason Weber, Case No. 14 CR 241, USDC (June 2, 2021) the USDC considered Weber’s attempt to reverse his conviction.
Weber’s conviction involved a scheme to defraud the United States Postal Service. Weber purchased insurance for packages he shipped via USPS under various names. He claimed that these packages contained valuable items. In fact, they did not. Using his position as a postal inspector, Weber prevented the packages he had insured from being delivered by removing them from the mail stream. He submitted to USPS insurance claims supported by fabricated receipts for the supposedly valuable items in the packages, which triggered payments by USPS. Between 2010 and 2013—the period over which the scheme occurred—Weber received nineteen insurance payments from USPS which netted him over $65,000. Though the checks were made payable to a number of names, they were all deposited into Weber’s bank accounts.
Weber pled guilty to theft of government funds under 18 U.S.C. § 641. In his plea agreement, Weber stipulated that he knowingly converted government funds in violation of the statute by depositing nineteen checks in bank accounts he controlled. However, since his sentencing hearing, Weber has maintained that it was his ex-wife, and not he, who committed the charged crime and that she did so without his knowledge. His theory was that his ex-wife, Zina Weber, caused him to take the fall for her wrongdoing. But Weber had no proof of his innocence and offered little proof to implicate his ex-wife.
In 2018, Weber moved to vacate his conviction. Armed with what he called newly discovered evidence, Weber alleged that the government committed a Brady violation by withholding exculpatory evidence that pointed to an alternative perpetrator, his ex-wife. [Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963)]. The Court denied that motion after concluding that he could not obtain relief under either Rule 33 or section 2255.
In 2020, Weber submitted a “renewed” motion to vacate his conviction under section 2255. Although Weber, in part, recycled the arguments from his 2018 motion, he also submitted additional evidence. In his view, this newer evidence not only further demonstrates his wife’s culpability, but also demonstrates that two others—his former neighbor, Lawrence Ballack, and a prosecutor in his case, William Novak—were all “perpetrating the scheme for which he was convicted.” Weber has since clarified that his 2020 motion should be construed as a petition for writ of coram nobis.
A petition for writ of coram nobis is “a rare form of collateral attack on a criminal judgment.” United States v. Delhorno, 915 F.3d 449, 450 (7th Cir. 2019). Coram nobis is available only to defendants who are out of custody and therefore may no longer petition for habeas corpus. Coram nobis is available to correct factual and legal errors in criminal cases where the defendant: (
- alleges an error “of the most fundamental character” enough to “render the criminal conviction invalid”;
- provides “sound reasons” for his “failure to seek earlier relief”; and
- demonstrates that he “continues to suffer from his conviction even though he is out of custody.”
A “fundamental error that invalidates a criminal proceeding is one that undermines our confidence that the defendant is actually guilty. Only errors of a great magnitude justify the cost of putting aside the interest in finality.
Weber bases his claims of fundamental error on the new evidence he has submitted with his brief. He contends that this evidence demonstrates not only that the insurance-fraud scheme continued after his conviction but also that his ex-wife, Novak, and Ballack were all involved in the same kind of scheme for which he pled guilty.
In explaining how this evidence demonstrates his innocence, Weber presents a series of allegations. He claims that his ex-wife, Novak, and Ballack worked together to defraud USPS. He asserts that the eBay receipt is the “same doctored receipt” he has previously accused his ex-wife of using. Weber further alleges that though no eBay purchase was ever made, someone purchased insurance for a package using that receipt (he does not say who) and that Novak received a $297.20 payout from that claim.
Weber then says that on the very day Novak received the check, Weber’s ex-wife made a loan payment in the same amount, $297.20—suggesting, without saying, that these two events must be related. He further asserts that the credit card used to purchase the USPS insurance belonged to Ballack and that Ballack must have used Weber’s IP address to perpetrate the crime for which Weber pled guilty. Weber recognizes that all this alleged conduct would have occurred in 2017 and therefore would have taken place after the offense conduct that led to his indictment. But he asks, if “Novak was committing this offense with Zina Weber and Lawrence Ballack in December of 2017, who could even begin to say that his handling of the prosecution was in good faith?”
If true, Weber’s allegations would be stunning. But both his allegations and his evidence are riddled with deficiencies. For example, Weber has offered nothing to show that the checks, receipts, or copy of the credit card are what he claims they are. None of the evidence he has presented is authenticated. And Weber does not even make an effort to explain, let alone demonstrate, how he came to be in possession of these items, when they came into his possession, and who (if anyone) provided them to him.
Weber contends that Ballack—a man with no apparent connection to the case before the present motion—accessed Weber’s IP address. Yet, Weber does not explain when or how Ballack supposedly did this. Nor does he explain how he knows no eBay purchase was ever made, how he knows that the prosecutor, Novak, actually received the insurance claim check, or why he believes the claim check and his ex-wife’s loan payment are related. Weber never even identifies who he contends purchased the insurance for the lost package.
In short, Weber did not show that he has genuine evidence to support his allegations. Nor has he provided the Court with a credible explanation of how his evidence, even if authenticated, supports his allegations. Weber failed to establish that there was a fundamental error that would undermine confidence in his conviction—which, again, came on a voluntary plea of guilty. Weber failed to show a miscarriage of justice that would warrant disturbing the legitimate interest in the finality of his conviction.
Weber’s petition for writ of coram nobis was denied.
A federal police officer – a Postal Inspector – abused his profession by defrauding the USPS insurance facility by using his profession to take his fake, insured, posts from the stream of mail and then profited from making claims for lost insured mail. He was caught and pleaded guilty to the crime and was sentenced. With buyers remorse Weber then accused his ex-wife and his prosecutor with the crime to which he pleaded guilty and had the unmitigated gall to file a petition corum nobis to expunge his conviction with a frivolous, undocumented claim that his ex-wife and his prosecutor were the actual criminals. No one likes being convicted but to try to change a plea of guilt by accusing an ex-wife and a prosecutor is simply a waste of time and should never have been put in the hands of a judge.
© 2021 – Barry Zalma
Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He also serves as an arbitrator or mediator for insurance related disputes. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 52 years in the insurance business. He is available at http://www.zalma.com and email@example.com.
Mr. Zalma is the first recipient of the first annual Claims Magazine/ACE Legend Award.
Over the last 53 years Barry Zalma has dedicated his life to insurance, insurance claims and the need to defeat insurance fraud. He has created the following library of books and other materials to make it possible for insurers and their claims staff to become insurance claims professionals.
Go to the podcast Zalma On Insurance at https://anchor.fm/barry-zalma; Follow Mr. Zalma on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bzalma; Go to Barry Zalma videos at Rumble.com at https://rumble.com/c/c-262921; Go to Barry Zalma on YouTube- https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCysiZklEtxZsSF9DfC0Expg; Go to the Insurance Claims Library – https://zalma.com/blog/insurance-claims-library/ Read posts from Barry Zalma at https://parler.com/profile/Zalma/posts; and the last two issues of ZIFL at https://zalma.com/zalmas-insurance-fraud-letter-2/ podcast now available at https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/zalma-on-insurance/id1509583809?uo=4