Can't Beat the System: Man Forces Rule 43 Violation, Loses Appeal

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on June 03, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you sabotage your own trial, don't expect a successful appeal in the Eleventh. That's the lesson a Georgia man who stole over $4 million in a yearlong credit card scam learned the hard way, recently.

Jean-Daniel Perkins attempted to avoid conviction by refusing counsel and not attending his trial. Perkins thought he had found "one weird trick" to beat the legal system. And now, judges do hate him, and his tricks didn't work.

Perkins was convicted on 37 counts, including 28 counts of bank fraud, stemming from his credit card scheme. At trial, he attempted to create a Rule 43 violation by refusing to leave his jail cell. When he appealed, arguing that the difficulties he created in his trial invalidated the verdict, the Eleventh Circuit was unsympathetic, rejecting each and every one of his complaints.

I Fought the Law

Here's how the Eleventh Circuit describes Perkins' behavior:

Mr. Perkins rejected two court-appointed attorneys, attempted to hijack every hearing that he attended, and refused to participate in his own trial, threatening physical violence if the district judge tried to compel him to enter the courtroom.

So, he's a charmer.

Perkins apparently thought that refusing to "consent" to representation or participate in his trial would somehow prevent the court from exercising authority over him. When questioned on how he would get through the trial, Perkins responded "What if I don't defend? How can you have a defendant if I'm not here to defend anything?"

When Perkins refused to leave his jail cell, the court provided a live video feed of the proceedings. The judge refused a competency hearing, finding that Perkins wasn't unstable, but simply attempting to manipulate and disrupt the proceedings.

And the Law Won

On appeal, Perkins argued that the court wrongly appointed counsel and that he had not been "present" as required under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 43. The Eleventh Circuit wasn't impressed. The right to counsel, the court wrote, is "meant as a shield, not a sword." Perkins, and any other defendant, cannot invite an error and then seek redress from a failing that he not only created but refused to allow the court to redress.

The same logic applied to Perkins' Rule 43 claim. While Rule 43 requires that a criminal defendant be present at "every trial stage," that does not mean that a defendant can simply avoid prosecution by refusing to leave his cell.

Despite Perkins crazy conduct, the Eleventh also found that the district court did not err in failing to have his competency evaluated. The district judge found Perkins' behavior to be "studied, contrived, and manipulative," not incompetent.

That's a shame for Perkins, who seemed to genuinely believe he had figured out the way to beat the legal system. At least he didn't argue he was a "Sovereign Citizen," though. That really would have been crazy.

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