from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Tennessee at Knoxville. No. 3:17-cr-00082-Thomas
A. Varlan, District Judge.
G. Terez, Beachwood, Ohio, for Appellant in 18-5752.
Stephen L. Braga, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA SCHOOL OF LAW,
Charlottesville, Virginia, for Appellant in 18-5777.
Anne-Marie Svolto, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE,
Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellee.
Before: SUTTON, COOK, and THAPAR, Circuit Judges.
SUTTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
with financial challenges and rising unpaid bills, the
individual has two legal options: shed the debts through the
humbling act of filing for bankruptcy or find a new source of
assets. Randall Beane, with Heather Tucci-Jarraf's
assistance, tried to find a new source of assets: an alleged
trust fund of government money in his name. But the money was
not his, and along the way the two of them defrauded the
United States of $31 million. At their resulting criminal
trial, they each asked to represent themselves, a request the
court honored after holding a hearing on the matter. The
trial did not end well for either of them, as the jury
rejected their array of fringe conspiracy theories. On
appeal, they argue that the trial court should have forced
them to accept counsel in view of their unusual beliefs.
Because they knowingly and intelligently made this choice and
because self-lawyering does not require the individual to
subscribe to conventional legal strategies or other orthodox
behavior, we affirm.
years, Randall Beane honorably worked for our country,
serving as an Air Force electrical engineer. At some point he
became convinced that the government was spying on the
public, prompting a self-described "quest" into the
world of conspiracy theories. R. 165 at 168. His internet
research led him to the "straw man conspiracy
theory." The government creates for each new citizen,
the theory claims, a legal identification-called a straw
man-that allows the Federal Reserve to hold in trust that
citizen's inherent "unlimited value." R. 165 at
170. Proponents believe that by filing paperwork with
"the correct verbiage, " R. 181 at 24, they can tap
into these trust funds and use them as bottomless expense
is everything. This theory struck a chord with Beane at a
vulnerable time, when he owed more money than he could pay on
his vehicle, several credit cards, and four personal loans.
long, he came across the work of Heather Tucci-Jarraf, which
did not help matters. A former lawyer who once worked as a
prosecutor and public defender, Tucci-Jarraf ran a website,
posted videos, and contributed to talk shows about the straw
man conspiracy theory. She also produced several faux-legal
documents that purported to allow individuals to access their
secret trust fund accounts. Seeing Tucci-Jarraf as a
visionary who could "make a difference, " Beane
reached out to her. R. 165 at 174. She committed to help
Beane dispose of his "old energy" and to "move
forward and be creative" in getting his financial house
in order. Id.
found an outlet for his creativity. While browsing Facebook,
he came across a video posted by an anonymous user under the
moniker of Batman-villain Harvey Dent. Id.
The video purported to teach viewers how to access their
secret trust fund accounts. But in truth it taught them how
to commit wire fraud by exploiting a deficiency in the
"Automated Clearing House" network that banks use
to transfer funds online. Beane discussed the video with
Tucci-Jarraf. She offered her own advice about how to perform
the technique and directed him toward potentially helpful
evening of July 3, Beane gave the Harvey Dent idea a try.
Logging onto his bank's website, he followed the
video's instructions and entered the information it
recommended. Account number? His own nine-digit Social
Security number. Routing number? The Federal Reserve's.
Using these credentials, Beane made fraudulent payments-in
full-on his personal loans, his credit card debt, and his car
insurance. Elated, Beane took ...