Court Refuses Chapman Appeal Bid

February 1, 2010 ( – A federal appellate court has rebuffed a bid by former investment broker Nathan Chapman Jr. to overturn his conviction for fraud against the Maryland state pension system on "ineffective assistance of counsel" grounds.

Chief Circuit Judge William B. Traxler Jr., writing for the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that it was properly the role of Chapman’s lawyer to decide whether to accept a court offer of a mistrial. The lawyer’s decision not to accept the offer despite Chapman’s wishes did not mean the lawyer was rendering ineffective assistance, Traxler asserted.

“To summarize, we conclude that decisions involving mistrials — whether to seek a mistrial or accept a mistrial offered by the trial court — are tactical decisions left to the sound judgment of counsel,” Traxler wrote. “The decision remains counsel’s to make even if the client expresses disagreement with the decision, and counsel’s decision is not unreasonable simply because the client disagrees.”

Chapman, sentenced in 2007 to five years and three months in prison, was convicted in August 2004 of using state pension money to buy stock in his companies to prop up their value – a move that went sour when the stock value plummeted and the retirement system lost virtually all of that money (See Chapman Jurors Convict on 23 of 32 Charges ).   

Chapman once served as a chairman of the state university system’s board of regents.

The 4th Circuit ruling is available here.