When developer Thomas True left his Mount Pleasant home for a January 2013 sentencing hearing, he was so confident he would be spared prison time in an extortion case that he left a large pot of shrimp stew boiling on the stove.
Instead of returning home that night for a Lowcountry feast, however, True left the courtroom in the custody of U.S. marshals, on his way to a nine-year federal prison term.
True, 70, now argues that this reversal of fortune was brought about by poor preparation and assistance from his attorney, William Thrower - an assessment Thrower strongly disputes.
True's new lawyer, Andy Savage, has filed a motion seeking to have True's sentence tossed out based on Thrower's performance. True received the maximum sentence recommended under federal guidelines for, in 2010, tying up and torturing a business rival who he felt had stiffed him.
Savage is not challenging True's guilt but contends that a new sentencing hearing is warranted so a judge can consider the developer's possible mental health issues, his positive work in the community and other mitigating factors not addressed during last year's proceeding, the motion states.
"We're not saying what he did was not wrong," Savage said. "We're attacking the lack of information that was given to the court at the time of his sentencing."
Among other things, the motion from Savage alleges that Thrower failed to properly investigate the case and seek a psychiatric assessment after his client displayed erratic behavior stemming from "untreated and misdiagnosed mental deficiencies."
Thrower also allegedly failed to advise True of his potential exposure to prison time and ensure that True would be properly credited for testifying for the government at co-defendant Gunther Blancke's trial, the motion states.
Thrower said he met with True 76 times during the course of the case, was fully prepared to represent his client and didn't seek a psychiatric exam for True because he saw no evidence of mental illness. If there had been such evidence, U.S. District Judge Michael Duffy would never have accepted True's guilty plea, Thrower said.
Since Duffy will be the judge to consider this latest motion, Thrower said, "I'd be surprised if this changed anything."
Beth Drake, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, declined to comment on the motion, saying prosecutors don't discuss pending legal matters.
True and Blancke, a muscle-bound martial arts expert, were accused of luring Greer developer Steven Sarkela to True's Snee Farm home in June 2010. Sarkela told the FBI that the pair strapped him to a chair and repeatedly punched and threatened him with broken glass, a knife and scissors until he signed documents turning over proceeds from a Folly Beach condo sale to True.
Blancke, who was found guilty at trial, received two years behind bars after expressing remorse and benefitting from supporters around the world attesting to his good nature.
True, by contrast, had no supporters testify on his behalf and barked at the judge in a thick Boston accent, ranting that he was the one wronged by the episode. Thrower said he called no supporters to testify because True "didn't want anybody there."
"He was embarrassed by it," he said. "He didn't want anyone to see what he'd gotten himself into."
His plea agreement with the government barred him from appealing the stiff sentence that came down, leaving his current motion one of the few legal avenues available for winning a reprieve.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.
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