By Bob Uphues
A Riverside resident sentenced to a little more than seven years in federal prison for fraud has appealed the judgment, which was handed down by Judge Charles R. Norgle in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Feb. 1.
Warren Barr III pleaded guilty in 2016 to one count of making a false statement to a financial institution after accepting a plea deal with federal prosecutors. He and five others had been indicted in 2014 on 13 counts of fraud related to the sale of about 60 units at Vision on State, a condo building in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood, developed by Barr.
The appeal appears to be in reaction to last-minute failed attempts by Barr's attorney to, first, dismiss the indictment and withdraw Barr's guilty plea, and second, have Norgle recuse himself from the case.
It took more than two years to get to a sentencing hearing, originally set for Jan. 8. Following Barr's guilty plea in June 2016, his attorney sought records relating to Barr's apparent arrest and six-month detention in Saudi Arabia two years earlier.
Court records indicate Barr sought and was given records related to his detention in Saudi Arabia. In November 2018, Barr's attorney, Michael Leonard sought a 90-day continuance of his client's sentencing in order to obtain security clearance to review classified documents related to Barr's detention overseas.
Norgle denied the request and on Jan. 2, a week before the sentencing hearing, Leonard moved to dismiss the indictment against Barr, withdraw the guilty plea and continue the sentencing hearing.
On Jan. 7, Norgle denied those motions. At the Jan. 8 sentencing hearing, Norgle told Leonard he "would not consider anything that happened to [Barr] in Saudi Arabia," even though Leonard wanted that information considered.
Leonard sought the judge's recusal following a contentious hearing, which Leonard described as "openly hostile" and demonstrated "the unmistakable appearance of bias or prejudice" against Barr and his lawyer.
Norgle denied the recusal request, arguing Leonard was evasive and engaged in "fencing with the court."
What Leonard described "as 'hostile' conduct was nothing more than the court's 'ordinary efforts at courtroom administration' when faced with Mr. Leonard's repeated obfuscations," Norgle wrote.
Leonard, who stepped in as Barr's attorney on Nov. 15, 2018, argued that Norgle's hostility stemmed from the fact that another case Norgle had decided, and where Leonard was the defense attorney, was overturned by a federal appeals court and remanded to a different jurisdiction.
Following the Feb. 1 sentencing, Leonard told Crain's Chicago Business that by barring evidence about Barr's detention in Saudi Arabia, he was ignoring "the big elephant in the room."
"There is documented evidence showing that U.S. intelligence was working closely with Saudi intelligence to get an American citizen arrested on Saudi soil. In lots of cases, someone's incarceration in connection with the crime is relevant," Leonard told Crain's after the sentencing hearing.
In addition to being sentenced to 87 months in prison and two years of court-supervised release, the 67-year-old Barr is required to pay more than $12.4 million in restitution.
According to court documents, Barr is to surrender to federal marshals to begin his confinement before 2 p.m. on April 30. The court recommended imprisoning Barr at the Federal Correction Institution at Oxford, Wisconsin.
When indicted on 13-counts back in 2014, federal prosecutors said Barr and five others had perpetrated a $22.8 million mortgage loan fraud scheme. Prosecutors charged that Barr and the others made false statements on loan applications that caused buyers to fraudulently obtain some 60 mortgages from several banks to buy condos at Vision on State, 1255 S. State St. in Chicago.