Jim Dey | Judge on former Champaign business owner’s request for new trial: ‘This case is CLOSED’ | Columns

A former Champaign roofing company owner argued vehemently that he was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. But a federal judge recently dismissed Ed Gire’s request for a new trial after concluding it had no merit.

“This case is CLOSED,” wrote U.S. Judge Sue Myerscough.

Gire, convicted of violating federal immigration laws and sentenced to 36 months behind bars, was released in the summer of 2021. While incarcerated, he filed a legal motion asking for a new trial that was the subject of a two-day evidentiary hearing in 2019.

At its conclusion, Myerscough declined Gire’s request to be released from prison while she reviewed the case, leading the defense team to conclude she would deny Gire’s motion. What the defense didn’t expect was that Myerscough would wait two years before issuing a decision.

When Myerscough did rule, she dismissed Gire’s claims out of hand.

“While the court finds that none of the alleged errors qualified as deficient conduct, the court also noted that, even had counsel conducted his investigation and trial strategy in the manner (Gire) now alleges he should have, (Gire) has not shown the result would have been different. The government presented overwhelming evidence of guilt at trial,” Myerscough wrote in her 60-page opinion.

Myerscough’s ruling also complicates Gire’s effort to appeal because she declined to issue a certificate of appealability. Gire now must obtain one from an appeals court justice before he can fully proceed. If no judge will certify, his appeal will be dismissed.

Gire’s appellate lawyer, Michael Pabian of Boston, is pursuing that issue.

Under federal rules, a “certificate of appealability” may be issued only if the petitioner “has made a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right.”

“The court does not find that reasonable jurists could disagree with the court’s findings that (Gire) did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel,” Myerscough wrote.

Gire served 27 months in a Florida federal prison for convictions on visa fraud and hiring illegal aliens. Prior to his trial, Gire pleaded guilty to misdemeanor offenses of unlawful employment of aliens.

The criminal charges stemmed from a raid on Gire’s Champaign business in May 2014. He ultimately hired Chicago lawyer Andrew DeVooght to represent him at trial. The post-trial motion before Myerscough alleged DeVooght gave him bad advice and made poor tactical decisions that led to his wrongful conviction.

The legal errors Gire alleged included advising him to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charges, waiving his right to a jury trial, failing to advise Gire about cooperating with the government and failing to properly investigate the case and properly prepare a key witness to testify.

Gire made clear that he and his lawyer were at odds over trial issues, but claimed that he “chose to continue(d) on with DeVooght and follow his advice rather than assert his rights or find an attorney with more agreeable advice, in part, due to the cost of finding another attorney.”

Gire contacted The News-Gazette last fall to publicize his pending case before Myerscough. He contended he was the victim of schemers who falsely linked him to their efforts to bring foreign workers in the United States on false pretenses.

Gire acknowledged that because he already has served his prison sentence that he had little to gain and additional heavy legal expenses to bear. Gire said he was doing so “to clear my name.”