Wichita — A federal judge refused Friday to shorten the sentence of a former Kansas University athletics consultant caught up in a $2 million ticket scalping conspiracy, rejecting defense claims that Thomas Blubaugh’s former attorney did a poor job representing him.
U.S. District Judge Monti Belot ruled that Blubaugh is not entitled to a reduction in his 46-month prison term. Blubaugh was sentenced in 2011 after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States through wire fraud, tax obstruction and interstate transportation of stolen property.
Blubaugh’s new defense attorney, Jim Pratt, said in an email Friday he had not yet spoken with Blubaugh about the decision and did not have authority to make any statements on his behalf. The U.S. attorney’s office declined comment.
The 25-page ruling comes after evidentiary hearings earlier this year to determine whether his former attorney, Stephen Robison, gave Blubaugh bad legal advice about whether to accept a plea deal in the case. Blubaugh claimed his attorney assured him prosecutors would file a motion that would have enabled him to receive a more lenient sentence, such as probation.
Blubaugh and his wife, Charlette, were among seven people convicted in a scheme involving tickets to football and basketball games that cost the university athletic department $2 million.
At issue is seemingly contradictory wording in the plea agreement. One portion indicates prosecutors agreed to file a motion seeking a lower sentence for “substantial assistance” already given, while a separate section in the same document states that such a motion was at the government’s discretion and such cooperation hadn’t happened.
Belot found that “credible evidence” showed Robison had told his client that the government did not have to file such a motion, and Thomas Blubaugh could not have reasonably understood that the terms of the plea agreement would guarantee him such a motion. But the judge also chided the government for not drafting a clearer plea agreement.
“For unexplained reasons that was not done here, with the result being a significant waste of time, effort and expense by all concerned,” Belot wrote.
Belot also was unconvinced by defense arguments that the sentencing judge, the late U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown, improperly considered the value of tickets that Blubaugh had hidden in a storage facility.
The former ticket consultant claimed Brown erred in allowing the government to use information he provided, the so-called deadwood tickets, to help determine the sentence. The government has contended authorities already knew about the tickets.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hathaway cited a May 2010 investigative report by the university, which said Charlette Blubaugh, the university’s former ticket director, had told other defendants that basketball ticket sales could not be reconciled and those records should be moved to the football stadium. The records would then be destroyed, and conspirators would blame their loss on construction at the stadium.
Prosecutors had argued in court filings that Thomas Blubaugh’s only significant revelation was that the tickets had been stored in a private storage facility instead of being destroyed.
Belot agreed that — given the available information about his participation in a joint scheme to hide the deadwood tickets — the disclosure would not have materially affected the sentencing court’s finding that he was jointly responsible for the ticket sales.