December 7, 2015
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 10 CR 1052 -
Virginia M. Kendall, Judge.
Flaum, Williams, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
Williams, Circuit Judge.
Stoller filed for bankruptcy. In that proceeding, he was
asked to list all property that he controlled but did not
own. He answered "none, " even though he controlled
a trust that owned property. He was convicted-after a guilty
plea-of bankruptcy fraud, and he was sentenced to 20
months' imprisonment. On appeal, he attacks the validity
of his guilty plea on several grounds. But because he was
competent to plead guilty, his plea was not coerced, and the
plea colloquy included most of the basics (and Stoller was
not prejudiced by any deficiency), we reject his arguments
mother lived in a house in River Forest, Illinois. The
property was owned by a trust; Stoller's mother was the
beneficiary. When his mother died, Stoller became the sole
beneficiary. The next day, he assigned his beneficial
interest to his daughter but reserved a "power of
direction" for himself. The "power of
direction" gave Stoller certain rights, including one he
exercised three times: the right to obtain loans for himself
that were secured by the property. 765 Ill. Comp. Stat.
§ 435/10 (defining "power of direction"). He
also directed the trust to rent out the property, and he
received the rental income.
December 2005, Stoller filed for bankruptcy. None of his
filings mentioned the River Forest property. A question on
one of the forms specifically asked him to "[l]ist all
property owned by another person that [he] [held] or
control[led]." Under penalty of perjury, he answered
was charged with two counts of knowingly and fraudulently
concealing property that belonged to a bankruptcy estate,
see 18 U.S.C. § 152(1), and seven counts of
knowingly and fraudulently making a false statement, under
penalty of perjury, in a bankruptcy proceeding, see
18 U.S.C. § 152(3). Represented by an appointed lawyer,
he pled guilty to one count of making a false statement (and
the government dismissed the remaining counts).
before sentencing, Stoller considered moving to withdraw his
plea on the ground that he was not mentally competent when he
entered it. His lawyer-who had counseled him through that
plea-withdrew, and a new lawyer was appointed. Sentencing was
postponed and Stoller was examined by Dr. Robert Heilbronner,
a board-certified neuropsychologist affiliated with
Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. Dr.
Heilbronner concluded that Stoller was competent to plead
guilty. After providing the district judge with the
doctor's report, Stoller's lawyer told the judge that
he would not move to withdraw Stoller's plea on
competency grounds. He did, however, move to withdraw the
plea based on alleged defects in the plea colloquy. That
motion was denied and Stoller was sentenced to 20 months'
by a new lawyer on appeal, Stoller repeatedly urges his view
that, under bankruptcy law, the River Forest property was not
part of his estate. So, he argues, some of the conduct
charged in the indictment-namely, failing to disclose the
River Forest property-is not a crime, and the indictment
should have been dismissed as defective. That argument has an
obvious flaw. Stoller answered "none" to a question
that asked him about "all property, " not "all
property that is part of your bankruptcy estate." The
indictment charged him with knowingly and fraudulently making
that false statement under penalty of perjury, which is a
federal offense. See 18 U.S.C. § 152(3).
that flaw aside because Stoller attacks the indictment on
other grounds too, arguing the indictment was impermissibly
brought to punish him for his vexatious trademark litigation.
See United States v. Batchelder, 442 U.S. 114, 125
(1979) (discretion regarding which cases to prosecute is
"subject to constitutional constraints"). But
Stoller pled guilty. As his lawyer conceded at oral argument,
Stoller's guilty plea, if valid, waived his current
arguments. Gomez v. Berge, 434 F.3d 940, 942 (7th
Cir. 2006) (guilty plea waives "all formal defects in
the proceedings, including any constitutional violations that
occurred before the plea was entered"); United
States v. George, 403 ...