CHEYENNE -- A former Nevada brothel owner is asking a federal judge in Wyoming to set aside his convictions on charges of possessing and transporting child pornography.
David Burgess, who's in his mid-50s, filed a lawsuit last week, claiming his original lawyer did an inadequate job in his defense. He is seeking a new trial.
Burgess is a member of a Nevada chapter of the Hells Angels and former owner of the Old Bridge Ranch, a legal brothel near Reno, Nev. He's serving a 15-year prison sentence.
U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson of Cheyenne, who presided over Burgess' trial, last week ordered federal prosecutors to file a response to Burgess' claims. He has retained San Francisco attorney Tony Serra, a nationally prominent civil rights lawyer who gained fame defending members of the Black Panthers and other groups in the 1960s.
Jim Barrett, assistant federal public defender, declined to comment on Burgess' claims he failed to provide an adequate defense at trial.
A federal appeals court already has upheld Burgess' convictions.
"There can be no doubt, let alone a grave doubt, that Burgess knowingly possessed child pornography as he traveled from Nevada into Wyoming," a three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court in Denver stated last year when it upheld his convictions.
The U.S. Supreme Court also has declined to review Burgess' case.
John Powell, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cheyenne, said it's not uncommon for defendants to appeal sentences and that many defendants claim their defense lawyers were ineffective.
"Our office feels confident that the original conviction and sentence was appropriate, that Mr. Burgess received appropriate and effective counsel from the public defender's office and we will vigorously defend the conviction throughout Mr. Burgess' appeal," Powell said.
Federal prosecutor Jim Anderson said at trial that investigators found child pornography on computer hard drives they confiscated from Burgess' motor home after a state trooper pulled him over in western Wyoming in July 2007.
Burgess claims in his new lawsuit that Barrett failed to prepare for the trial and was unprepared to give an opening statement to the jury at the beginning of the case.
Burgess also claims that Barrett failed to interview witnesses, investigate others who might have placed the pornography on the hard drives or look into the involvement of federal officials who alerted state authorities to watch for Burgess.
His lawsuit claimed Barrett openly showed his dislike for Burgess in front of the jury, calling the public defender "the one person who is supposed to be defending him cannot even stand to look at him or speak to him."
"The jury was likely predisposed to dislike the defendant, who is a member of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, a brothel owner, a drug user and accused of possessing a nearly unimaginable amount of child pornography," the lawsuit said.
Kate Hallinan, a San Francisco lawyer who works with Serra, said Burgess' friends and family -- not the Hells Angels -- retained Serra to work on the case.
"There was a great deal of evidence available that showed his innocence, or at least definitely shed reasonable doubt on the situation, and really none of it was put before the jury," Hallinan said. "... Those questions weren't brought in front of the jury. And so that's what we think that Mr. Burgess deserves -- to have all the facts, all the evidence shown so that he can get a fair trial."