Fresh off being sentenced and awaiting the start of his nearly four-year prison term, Richmond businessman Michael Hild continues his fight to remain a free man.
The former Live Well Financial CEO last week filed a notice of appeal, an initial step in the formal process to appeal his conviction of a bond scheme that defrauded lenders and led to the collapse of his Chesterfield-based reverse mortgage company.
Court documents filed Feb. 8 state he intends to appeal both the conviction and sentence.
The notice of appeal was required to be filed within 14 days of his sentencing. Hild was sentenced Jan. 27 in federal court in Manhattan to 44 months in federal prison but remains free until at least May 1, while allowing his attorney and federal prosecutors to hash out the amount of restitution he must pay.
Hild’s attorney, Brian Jacobs of New York law firm Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason & Anello, urged U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Abrams to allow Hild to remain free beyond May 1 while his appeal process plays out.
Jacobs argues Hild should be allowed to remain free, pointing to the fact that he has already been free on bond without incident since 2019.
Jacobs’ letter states that Hild plans to appeal on the grounds that Abrams erred in denying his request for a new trial in December.
Hild was found guilty by a jury on all counts after a three-week trial in April 2021. While remaining free on bond he fought for nearly two years to have that verdict overturned or for a new trial. His main argument was that his previous attorney, Benjamin Dusing, was wrongfully ineffective at trial due to distractions from personal conflicts. Abrams struck down that effort in a 64-page opinion.
However, in that opinion, Abrams wrote that Hild’s claims of ineffective counsel did give her an interesting legal argument to ponder.
“Hild raises a novel legal argument, however, which presents a challenging question at the intersection of the Sixth Amendment right to conflict-free counsel and the modern reality – all too familiar to those who work in the legal profession – that other obligations, personal and professional, inevitably arise, even when ensuring a fair trial for the accused,” Abrams wrote.
Abrams noted that there is scarce relevant case law in addressing such attorney conflicts and that a judge must tread carefully in making what could be a major precedent-setting ruling.
Despite seeing the argument as novel, Abrams remarked at last month’s sentencing hearing that she did not expect Hild to prevail in his appeal effort.
He’s going for it nevertheless, Jacobs said.
“Regardless of the court’s view of Mr. Hild’s likelihood of success on appeal, the argument Mr. Hild plans to raise, among others, plainly meets the ‘substantial question’ requirement for bail pending appeal because, as the court noted, it is a ‘novel’ question governed by ‘little relevant case law,’” Jacobs wrote in the letter to Abrams.
Abrams, who has overseen Hild’s criminal case since he was first arrested and charged in the summer of 2019, has yet to rule on the bond-pending-appeal request.
Meanwhile, Jacobs and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have until April 27 to resolve their discussions of the amount of restitution Hild will have to pay. Abrams has initially found that Hild is on the hook for $22 million in restitution to his victims, which in this case are large banks and lenders.
Among the assets entangled in that potential restitution pool are real estate and business holdings held in the name of Hild’s wife, Laura. Those assets also are the subject of interest in the ongoing Live Well Financial bankruptcy case.
Should the judge decide Hild cannot remain free pending appeal, she has recommended he serve his time in a federal facility near Richmond and he would have until 2 p.m. on May 1 to report to the U.S. Marshals Service to begin his sentence.
Why would he need to serve time near RVA? All prisons have zoom calling ability. I guess they don’t want to incur/raise the bankruptcy costs if the trustee or counsel need to see him in person.
Pretty much everyone who has done business with this guy should put in a claim, assuming the many NDAs he had people sign don’t stop people from those claims.