Paul Monea had his 15 minutes of fame about 30 years ago, when Mike Tyson was the heavyweight champion of the world.
Monea was famous in his own right, making millions with infomercials. Then he bought the former champ's mansion, which led to a different kind of fame.
He tried to sell it later in a notorious money-laundering scheme that included a 43-carat diamond ring. That turned his 15 minutes into about 12 years in prison.
Then and Now
In Monea v. United States of America, the infomercial mogul challenged his convictions on the grounds that government agents tampered with wiretap evidence. He also blamed his trial lawyer for a poor defense.
The judge didn't buy it in 2007, and neither did the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2019. The panel said even if the attorney missed a step, it didn't make a difference.
"It is not enough for Monea to argue that a different attorney would have done a better job," Judge John Nalbandian wrote for the court. "What matters is whether it would have made a difference."
Monea's lawyer had evidence before trial that the government doctored the recordings. But, the attorney said, the expert's evidence was not credible to use at trial.
After the close of evidence, however, the attorney found other experts who questioned the recordings. He asked the judge to consider that evidence.
The appeals court said that the government's case was "overwhelming" and that the "tampering claim was farfetched." Among other problems for the defense, an admitted money-launderer in the case testified against Monea.
In the meantime, the government sold the "Golden Eye" diamond for $2.8 million. The Tyson mansion went to Living Word Sanctuary Church.
Monea, now 72, was released from prison in December.