Michael Hild, the former CEO of defunct reverse mortgage lender Live Well Financial, will get an opportunity in March to make his case for either an acquittal or the commencement of a new trial at a hearing to take place next month in Manhattan. This is according to court documents reviewed by RMD, and reporting by local Richmond, Va.-area press.
Hild, who last April was found guilty of playing a role in a bond fraud scheme that artificially inflated the value of the former lender’s bonds, contends that he was not a beneficiary of adequate counsel stemming from a series of legal difficulties and disputes on the part of his former attorney, Benjamin Dusing. Shortly after the verdict was announced, Hild enlisted the services of a new attorney — Brian A. Jacobs — who has had a specialty in the appeals process.
Prior to the trial which ultimately commenced in April 2021 after enduring delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hild had previously dismissed a New York-area legal team in favor of hiring Mr. Dusing, a friend and former high school classmate.
The decision by presiding Judge Ronnie Abrams to hold a hearing on the matter of either acquittal or a new trial comes after over five months of silence from the Court. Hild’s counsel previously argued in August 2021 that a new trial is “required” considering the legal issues that Mr. Dusing is currently facing, along with Mr. Hild’s intents as CEO of Live Well.
“[T]his Court should enter a judgment of acquittal on all counts […] because […] the proof at trial failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Hild committed any of the charged crimes,” a letter filed by Hild’s current counsel in August 2021 reads. “The charges all rest on the government’s assertion that Mr. Hild misrepresented (or caused others to misrepresent) the value of bonds held by Live Well Financial to induce lenders to loan additional cash. But the evidence at trial failed to prove that Live Well misrepresented the bond values, or that Mr. Hild had intent to defraud.”
Should the request for an acquittal not be granted by the presiding judge, however, Hild’s attorney requests a new trial on account of an allegation of ineffective counsel on the part of Hild’s previous legal team led by Mr. Dusing, the August letter reads.
“Mr. Hild’s trial counsel, Benjamin Dusing and Brandy Katy Lawrence, were laboring under actual undisclosed and un-waived conflicts of interest that adversely affected their performance,” the letter reads in part. “In particular, during Mr. Hild’s trial […] Mr. Dusing and Ms. Lawrence were secretly litigating serious custody cases in Kentucky (where Mr. Dusing was a party, represented by Ms. Lawrence) in which Mr. Dusing had been sanctioned for his behavior.”
In a lengthy affidavit submitted to the Court in response to Hild’s assertions later that month, Dusing responded by calling foul on any allegations of distraction. Hild’s attorney has since submitted additional letters to the Court detailing other legal issues faced by Mr. Dusing that have been the subject of media stories in the following months, and which counsel alleges helps to bolster the argument in favor of either acquittal or a new trial.
The hearing is currently scheduled for March 8, 2022. Read the locally-reported story at RichmondBizSense.
Editor’s note: The language of this story was changed to more precisely reflect the outcome of the April 2021 trial.