PITTSBURGH – A businessman who won a new trial because his first lawyer fell asleep during proceedings has pleaded guilty to fraud charges just before his retrial was to begin.
James Nassida pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Pittsburgh to wire and bank fraud conspiracy. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports his family and new lawyer declined to comment on the plea.
Federal agents said Nassida and his sister led a scheme to inflate borrower income and assets to obtain millions in fraudulent loans through their mortgage brokerage firm. The scheme was among the largest investigated by the local mortgage fraud task force.
Nassida's sister killed herself after the two were convicted last year.
However, a judge ruled Nassida was denied a fair trial because his attorney Stan Levenson dozed off during the October trial in which Nassida was convicted.
Levenson acknowledged he fell asleep and said he had been taking cold medicine that made him drowsy during the trial.
The presiding judge ruled Levenson "was not functioning as counsel during a substantial portion of Mr. Nassida's trial, thus violating Defendant Nassida's Sixth Amendment rights" to a fair trial and legal representation.
Levenson initially moved for a mistrial because he fell asleep, but the judge opted to wait for the jury's verdict first and to let Nassida file an appeal if he was convicted.
Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://www.post-gazette.com