A Washington federal judge has denied a pro se request from Celicia Hoover-Hankerson – a former attorney convicted of defrauding the District of Columbia Superior Court – to vacate her sentence.
Hoover-Hankerson was a Criminal Justice Act attorney in the Superior Court. Hoover-Hankerson and her brother, Benjamin Hoover, a part-time criminal defense lawyer, were accused of running a scheme to cash in witness vouchers for witnesses who never appeared.
During her trial in 2004, prosecutors introduced evidence that she signed more than 2,000 vouchers, taking in about $74,000. A jury found her guilty in July 2004 of conspiracy, theft of federal funds and fraud.
Following her unsuccessful attempt to argue for acquittal, she was sentenced in 2006 to serve 35 months in jail. She appealed, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed her conviction the following year.
In October 2008, Hoover-Hankerson filed a motion (PDF) pro se to vacate the sentence on the grounds that her previous attorneys had been ineffective, arguing that they had failed to probe the government’s witnesses and to object to voir dire taking place without her. She also claimed the court lacked jurisdiction to impose a sentence.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Roberts, in denying (PDF) her request yesterday, wrote that Hoover-Hankerson’s allegations against her former attorneys were “false and conclusory,” that she had failed to show prejudice and that any objections to the sentence are barred because they weren’t raised on direct appeal.
Hoover-Hankerson was disbarrred (PDF) in July 2008. The U.S. attorney's office, through spokesman Bill Miller, declined to comment.