Richard A. Luthmann, a former New York lawyer, has initiated legal proceedings to overturn his 2020 state conviction in what has become known as the ‘fake Facebook case.’
The case involved Luthmann creating false Facebook pages for several political candidates, including Staten Island District Attorney Michael MacMahon and former Republican Assembly candidate Janine Materna.
Despite Luthmann’s insistence that the Facebook pages were satirical and labeled ‘unofficial,’ Special Prosecutor Eric Nelson charged him with identity theft and fraud. Nelson argued Luthmann created the pages to influence elections and damage Materna and MacMahon’s reputation.
Calls for Disciplinary Action Against Prosecutor
Luthmann seeks to withdraw his plea, vacate the judgment, dismiss the case with prejudice, and instigate disciplinary action against Special District Attorney Eric Nelson. The issue is before Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice Donald Leo.
Luthmann also requested Justice Leo refer Nelson, Perry Reich (a disbarred legal advisor to Nelson), and Ronald Castorina Jr., a former Assemblyman and current New York State Supreme Court Justice, to law enforcement for alleged crimes committed during the prosecution of him.
In addition to his state case, Luthmann faced federal charges for a scrap metal scheme involving one of his legal clients. He pleaded guilty to multiple federal charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, and extortion, and was sentenced to four years in prison in 2019.
Upon his release, Luthmann, who remains on probation until March 27, 2024, began a new career as a journalist and challenged his state conviction. In his filings, Luthmann claimed he was not mentally fit to agree to a plea, which he made via video on October 27, 2020, from LSCI Allenwood, a federal prison in White Deer, Pennsylvania.
SHU Torture, PTSD, and Prison Rape
Luthmann argued his plea was not voluntary and was influenced by threats, misrepresentations, or unwarranted promises.
He blames Nelson for his situation: “I still fear what he may do under the ‘color’ of law enforcement. I blame him on the same level as a physical abuser.”
In his filings, Luthmann revealed that before he took his plea, he spent nearly two months in the Special Housing Unit (SHU), an experience he described as torture.
Now, under the care of Dr. Juan Quiros from Florida Personal Management, Luthmann told the court that he has a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition he attributes partly to his time in the SHU.
This lengthy isolation, which he claims was based on unfounded charges related to possessing a cell phone, contributed significantly to his mental health issues.
Luthmann also disclosed he was a victim of multiple rapes in prison, incidents that occurred after his release from the SHU, and his reintegration into the general housing unit in September and October 2020.
“I am uncomfortable talking about these experiences, which form a critical aspect of my mental health treatment. Reliving these moments is painful, but I am in the process of healing,” Luthmann said.
He elaborated on the psychological impact of the experiences, stating, “The anguish of enduring prison rape is on the same magnitude as the torture I faced in the SHU.”
Intimidating Plea Hearing
He admitted he focused on avoiding the mental torment of the SHU at the time of the alleged plea.
“When trapped in a victim mentality, one may prefer the brief yet excruciating physical pain of rape, knowing it would soon end, over the enduring mental torment of the SHU, which felt endless,” Luther said. “That was my mindset around the time of the alleged plea. My primary goal was to evade the mental torment of the SHU, whatever the cost. I’ve always prioritized my mental well-being over physical pain.”
On the day of his video plea hearing, Luthmann was escorted from his unit to a different section of the prison by a group of unit officers, correctional officers, and other staff members, some of whom he recognized from his time in the SHU. He said the officers expressed displeasure about being there for “Luthmann’s bullshit.”
Complaints ranged from a general disdain for the inconvenience of video proceedings to personal grievances, like an officer grumbling about possibly missing his golf game.
With a vicious smile, one officer remarked how “nice” it was for Luthmann to be out of the SHU.
Luthmann recalls his anxiety:
“I was so eager for the hearing to end, to distance myself from these officers. Their palpable anger made it clear that the unfamiliar video procedure was an inconvenience. And in prison, inconveniencing the wrong people can lead to retaliation, which often meant a dreaded return to the SHU.”
With his focus on avoiding imminent threats at LSCI-Allenwood, he barely paid attention to the proceedings in a distant New York courtroom.
“The thought of returning to the SHU was a fate worse than death for me,” he said.
Plea under Duress
Despite the high-stakes nature of his case, the BOP declined to transfer him back to a federal prison in New York, a request he’d explicitly made.
He had no way to confer with his lawyers. The absence of a “break-out” room in the video conference setup meant he could not speak privately with his attorneys, protected by attorney-client privilege.
With a backdrop of Luthmann’s PTSD, the looming shadow of the SHU, the intimidating presence of numerous officers, and their inflammatory remarks, the circumstances were dire. His recent experience in the SHU, which the United Nations recognized as exceeding four times the threshold for permanent psychological injury, compounded his fragile mental state.
Being in a Pennsylvania federal prison while his case was in NYC further complicated matters.
In the lead-up to the plea, Luthmann detailed not having access to pivotal evidence, notably an email allegedly showing collusion between Nelson and Reich, the disbarred attorney. This email, Luthmann believes, revealed a plot to bypass any mention of the First Amendment to grand jurors, laying bare their motivations to indict him under questionable circumstances.
His New York attorney informed him that Nelson’s reactions became volatile after encountering the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act [IADA] paperwork. His allegedly relayed to Luthmann that Nelson asserted he had instructions to “get” Luthmann from higher-ups.
He disputed that his former training as a lawyer gave him any advantages or insights in the prison environment. Luthmann stressed that PTSD’s debilitating effects rendered his prior profession and knowledge irrelevant, making every decision a matter of survival.
The pandemic heightened Luthmann’s distress since he had diabetes, and contracting COVID-19 could be fatal.
Concerns of Retaliation; Legal Manipulation
Luthmann contends he couldn’t make a fully informed and competent waiver of his rights due to his mental state and hostile circumstances. But now he is going forward, he says, but with grave concerns for the potential fallout from his revelations.
“I fear retaliation for my truthful testimony,” Luthmann said. “I would rather kill myself than return to prison for a supervised release violation,” emphasizing the depth of his fears of returning to the treacherous confines of prison.
Luthmann’s apprehensions don’t just stem from past trauma. He believes Special Prosecutor Nelson, whom he characterizes as a “stone-cold criminal,” will manipulate his under-oath statement in his court filings to create further complications with his federal overseers.
Finds Strength Amidst Struggle: Blames Nelson for Traumas
Yet, Luthmann projects resilience in the face of these challenges: “I am no longer afraid. I have become a warrior,” partly due to the manipulations of Special Prosecutor Nelson and the political machinery he believes is behind him. He draws strength from Biblical references, quoting Luke 12:35, “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning,” signaling his readiness for unexpected challenges.
Luthmann alleges abuses he endured stem from the actions spearheaded by Special Prosecutor Nelson. He believes that had Nelson not layered the false New York State case on top of the federal one, he would not have faced heightened custody levels that barred him from being placed in a prison camp tailored for non-violent, white-collar offenders. Instead, his trajectory led him to a dangerous low security prison where he experienced deep trauma and sexual abuse.
“I don’t blame my prison rapists,” Luthmann stated. “I blame Eric Nelson and his co-conspirators.”