April 24, 2018
Appeals from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Wisconsin. No. 15 CR 115 - J.P. Stadtmueller,
Judge. No. 16 CR 100 - Pamela Pepper, Judge.
Bauer, Easterbrook, and Kanne, Circuit Judges.
Dyer, the defendant in this consolidated appeal, challenges
the denials of his motions to withdraw his guilty pleas.
Under a written agreement, Dyer pled guilty to wire fraud, 18
U.S.C. § 1343, and unlawful financial transactions, 18
U.S.C. § 1957, for his conduct in two separate fraud
schemes. He now claims that the plea colloquy was
insufficient, in part because the district court did not
adequately explore the potential effects of his bipolar
disorder. We affirm the judgments.
originally faced three prosecutions for three schemes, but
the third was dismissed as part of his plea agreements. In
the first, "the Farmland case, " (Case No.
17-1580), Dyer created several entities known collectively as
American Farmland Partners, ostensibly to form a real estate
investment trust. Using an alias to hide his past conviction
for a different scheme, Dyer solicited investments in person
and through websites, videos, and radio advertisements,
avowing that the business would buy and maintain profitable
farmland, sell stock interests, and parcel the proceeds out
to interest holders. But the promotions rested on
misrepresentations-including that the company already had
purchased farmland, that prior investors had earned returns,
and that a large-scale public offering of shares was
imminent. In reality, during its three-year run, the company
never purchased land; had no clear plan for a public
offering; and funneled almost all of the investments-about
two million dollars-to Dyer and his codefendants for their
personal use, with the remainder used to make payments in
furtherance of the scheme.
two years of pretrial proceedings in the Farmland case, Judge
Stadtmueller set a December 2016 trial date. Dyer exercised
his right to represent himself, albeit with help from standby
counsel. In opening statements, Dyer asserted his innocence;
the government, he said, misunderstood his legitimate
over the course of two days, eleven witnesses testified
against Dyer, detailing how he organized and implemented the
scheme. On the second day, Dyer tried to introduce an exhibit
while cross-examining a witness, even though he had not
submitted an exhibit list before trial. The judge admonished
Dyer in the presence of the jury, informing him that he must
"follow the same rules of every lawyer" and that
the judge was "not going to play games like [Dyer]
continue[s] to play games with the Court, the court staff,
the government, the witness." The jury was then excused,
and the judge warned Dyer that he would not "continue
the game of obfuscation and charade" or "tolerate
abuses" of the judicial process. Later that day, the
parties say, Dyer told the government that he wanted to stop
the trial and plead guilty.
the Farmland case was being investigated, Dyer organized
another scheme that became the subject of "the Insurance
case, " (Case No. 17-1776). Joan Bakley purchased a life
insurance policy through Dyer's father, James. The policy
later lapsed for nonpayment. Dyer convinced the Bakley family
that James had somehow "stolen" their insurance
policy by making himself the beneficiary. Claiming to have
contacts at the issuing insurance company, Dyer entered into
a consulting agreement with the family.
representations were false. His father did not steal the
policy, and Dyer had no contacts at the insurance company.
For his purported services, the Bakleys paid Dyer nearly $1,
000, 000 in 30 or so installments. Pretrial proceedings in
the Insurance case were underway when Dyer approached
prosecutors from the Farmland case about pleading guilty.
after Dyer asked to halt the Farmland trial, he signed
written plea agreements for both the Farmland and Insurance
cases. He would plead guilty to two counts of wire fraud and
two counts of unlawful financial transactions, in exchange
for dismissal of the remaining charges in these two cases and
all charges in a third case.
next day, Magistrate Judge Jones, who previously had reviewed
Dyer's competence to proceed pro se, held a
consolidated change-of-plea hearing. Dyer testified that he
was comfortable reading complex documents and understood his
plea agreement, which he reviewed "extensively"
with standby counsel. No threats, promises, or other
inducements were made, Dyer said. He confirmed that he was
not using drugs or alcohol, and that he was "fully in
the moment and understanding what's going on." The
magistrate reviewed the plea agreement and its factual basis
with Dyer, who confirmed that the allegations were true.
offered his pleas of guilty, and the magistrate recommended
accepting them on December 7, 2016. The district judges in