A federal judge has denied former Mount Pleasant developer Thomas True's bid to toss out the 9-year prison sentence in his extortion case, dismissing his complaints about his attorney's performance as "wholly unpersuasive."
True, 71, last year received the maximum sentence recommended under federal guidelines for, in 2010, tying up and torturing a business rival who he felt had stiffed him. He assumed his plea agreement with the prosecutors would earn him mercy. When it didn't, he blamed poor preparation and assistance from his attorney, Bill Thrower.
True's new lawyer, Andy Savage, argued in a motion filed earlier this year that Thrower failed to properly investigate the case, seek a psychiatric assessment after True displayed erratic behavior and present other mitigating factors to the court.
But U.S. District Judge Michael Duffy shot down those arguments in an order issued this week. Duffy said that True failed to prove Thrower provided ineffective counsel or that his actions undermined True's case. Duffy placed the blame for the outcome squarely on True's shoulders, saying the crime was a "Greek tragedy that (True) authored and directed."
True and Gunther 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. But True, Duffy stated, never took responsibility for "his brutal acts," a pattern that has continued with his efforts to blame Thrower for his prison stay.
Savage could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Thrower, who maintained he did his best to represent True in a "difficult and extremely challenging" case, said he felt vindicated by Duffy's ruling.
"I zealously represented him from the moment he hired me," he said. "Judge Duffy confirmed that doing all the things that Mr. Savage suggested would not have changed the outcome for Mr. True."
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