FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA – “Psychic” Rose Marks is pressing charges against her former defense attorney in an effort to have her conviction and punishment eliminated.
Marks is currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence after she was found guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida of defrauding more than $17 million from clients in a decades-long conspiracy. Marks’ most high-profile victim was best-selling romance novelist Jude Deveraux, which made her case international news. Part of Marks’ fraud included “cleansing” gold coins and cash, but not returning it to her victims.
It’s been three years since her trial and she recently made a case against her trial lawyer at the time, Fred Schwartz. Marks alleged that he talked her out of accepting a plea offer that would have sent her to prison for five years—half of her current sentence. She also claimed Schwartz’s defense wasn’t strong enough during her month-long trial and he had a conflict of interest.
“He convinced me that I was innocent and the government was guilty,” Marks said. “I was taking a lot of valium and alcohol at the time.”
Despite Marks’ claims, Schwartz, the prosecutors who handled the case, paralegals and defense lawyers who negotiated plea agreements for not only Marks, but eight members of her family for related crimes, remember things differently.
“When the defendant loses their appeal, they’re told by what I call ‘jailhouse lawyers’ that the only other way you have is to claim your attorney was ineffective and find some reason based upon what happened to say that they didn’t effectively represent you and ask for a new trial,” Schwartz told the Florida Record. “I understand that. If I were facing 10 years of my life in jail, I’d probably do the same thing. I have no animosity, but the reason she did it it’s her only other recourse to try to get out.”
According to Schwartz, he told Marks she was “crazy” to take the plea deal she was offered. The government initially wanted her to serve a 25-year jail sentence. The original claim was she stole $40 million of her clients’ money, which was the first indictment. After a year of litigation, Schwartz and his team got the government to re-indict four times more times until it “got its facts right.” The defense got to review copies of some of the grand jury minutes and from them proved the forfeiture claims where the government was seeking to forfeit all of Marks’ property, was able to get her back about $2.5 million worth of her property, including her house and vehicles.
Schwartz and the rest of Marks’ defense relentlessly attacked how the government presented the case and it finally agreed to a 10-year sentence and then came down again and said she could plead to a count that had a maximum of five years. Schwartz argued that she should only have to do 51 months.
“I told her, ‘Rose, you really should take this plea,’ Schwartz said. “ ‘You will have a very hard time winning a trial because they are putting in not only your clients, but some of your daughter-in-law’s clients whose stories are much worse than the stories that your clients, and claiming you’re part of a conspiracy with them.’”
If Schwartz had just said that to her alone, it would have been hard for him to prove it. All of his paralegals reportedly heard him suggest Marks take the plea as well, but since they had a joint defense agreement, the conversation was privileged so it was like Schwartz was only talking with Marks.
However, Schwartz was able to get confirmation from the likes of Marks’ daughter-in-law’s attorney, who heard the plea recommendation and testified, as well as another co-counsel for her daughter-in-law who also agreed to testify on Schwartz’s behalf. He also got confirmation from another attorney on the case and a federal agent who was also a detective working on it.
“Although I don’t have any interest in the case, I certainly don’t want to be labeled as ineffective,” Schwartz said. “Four other independent people testified that I tried to persuade her to take this plea. I thought that our defense was very good. Rose’s clients who testified never complained to anybody that they were unhappy with her services. They got what they paid for.
“It was only because there were other victims of her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter who were tricked and more egregious things happened to them that they were part of the conspiracy that Rose was convicted. That was foreseeable when the judge ruled there was a conspiracy and that all these people could testify. That’s why I thought she should take the plea.”