Recorded by (name omitted), who was in attendance
Honorable Judge Webber’s Opening Statement
He referred to this process as a book with two chapters. Many read the first chapter and it gives them understanding of the second. Some only read the first. Some skip to the end. I think he was trying to remind everyone that the government did not bring this suit egregiously and that what would follow was the correct response to the offenses that Mr. Staley had already plead guilty to committing. The judge asked for everyone to respect the process. He talked about the impact of the plea agreement upon the day’s decisions and proceedings. He talked about the “levels” of punishment/sentencing that the state was computing, finally saying that several levels were added due to Mr. Staley’s having tried to obstruct justice in this case and because Mr. Staley had continued to talk publicly as if he was innocent, even though he had officially plead guilty and was told by the court to refrain from asserting innocence in light of the guilty plea.
The judge stated that the government could have assessed up to level 33 for punishment, but he was going to list it at 31 levels, which made the recommended sentence for Staley’s crimes 108-135 months, though the base level for the 4 counts Staley plead guilty to was 84 months, or 7 years. He then asked for the government to bring forward any victims who wanted to speak.
The victims were referred to by initials for privacy. Almost all of the speakers were middle-aged children of elderly parents, many of whom were unable to attend, due to advanced age, dementia, illness and infirmity.
Victim N.S. said Jim Staley had been characterized by the defense as a good Christian and good family man, “but he is neither.” She said that Staley had asked her to lie to the FBI to cover up his misdeeds, but she refused. She lost over $600,000 and has to date received only $407 in restitution.
Victim C.B. said her parents lost $325,000, which was their entire life savings and now cannot provide for themselves, cannot provide for their food, housing, or their medical expenses. They are on food stamps and Medicaid.
Victim W.F. talked about the fact that Jim Staley targeted seniors, with devastating impact, that his actions were no accident, but were calculated to prey upon the elderly.
Another victim (I didn’t get the initials) talked about that she had recently been widowed when Staley approached her and told her he was “there to help.” She now suffers from anxiety issues and total lack of trust of other people.
All the speakers spoke of the devastating effect of losing their life savings, the huge taxes they were assessed for cashing in annuities and IRAs before they were supposed to, and said that Staley never mentioned what they would be losing by doing so.
Letters from Victims
The judge had a whole stack of letters from victims who could not attend. He read from them, saying that he was only going to read excerpts, and that he was not going to read personal information or “hyper-emotional” statements.
One letter said that Jim Staley had sold this “investment” to an elderly man who had diminished mental capacity due to the onset of dementia.
Another said that Jim Staley presented that these were “no risk” investments with a guarantee of a 40% return.
Another said that Jim had claimed that he had sold these investments to members of his own family.
The judge read repeatedly that the investors were not told that they would be subject to huge capital gains taxes for prematurely cashing in IRAs and annuities.
The judge read repeatedly that the seniors now could not care for themselves and are on food stamps and Medicaid.
Letters of Support from Jim’s family and followers
The judge read excerpts from this pile of letters as well. He identified some excerpts as being written by Jim’s wife, Jim’s parents, and three of Jim’s daughters. These letters were what anyone would expect – “Jim is the finest man I’ve ever met,” “Please don’t put my daddy in jail,” etc.
One letter from a family member said that Jim didn’t mean to do what he did, just that he had a “single-minded focus” and ignored everything else.
From M.S.G. (I think?) – stated that Jim was where he was because he is “not willing to compromise the Word of God.” This person said that Jim doesn’t need to go to jail, he’s already “changed.”
From someone who said he is a “talk show host” – Jim’s message and example are desperately needed by the U.S. and by the Christian community.
From M.B. – Jim helped her deal with depression and anxiety, helped her husband become a convert, saved their marriage
From J.S. – Jim Staley helped their marriage
From M.R. (a PFT employee) – Jim helps people, it’s his passion.
From M.G. – Jim is their pastor and counselor, he is “full of genuine honesty.”
From B.M. – more of the same
From J. and L – Jim saved our marriage
From M.H. – worship leader – Jim led me into the truth
From P.T. – more of the same
From C.H. – “No one stands taller than he who stands corrected,” stating that Jim has accepted correction and doesn’t need jail time.
Almost all of the followers’ letters were very similar, so I quit taking notes.
Initials of other letter writers: L.S., L.G. A.H., K and L.N., F.G. (employee at PFT), T.E., A.B. I may not have all the initials perfectly correct.
Prosecutor Dianna Collins said that she had met with each and every victim and had heard over and over how they met Jim, how they trusted him, how they were manipulated and betrayed by him, and he stole from them their life savings. She said the main question they asked her was always, “When am I going to get my money back?” In answer, she clearly stated to them that she was sorry to tell them , but they were probably NEVER going to get their money back. She said she believes that Jim has never had and will never have any interest in restitution. She referenced the restitution order of 2011, which was for repayment of $2.9 MILLION and announced that to date, only $1,950 had been paid in restitution, with only $50 being paid in 2015.
She stated that Jim Staley has an income from PFT of $10K per month, but that he has set up mechanisms so that he can use the money but it is never officially his, just so he will not have to pay restitution. She also mentioned that PFT pays the rent on his house. At one point, she turned to Jim and said something like, “And the government knows about your secret trips on private jets.”
She then started talking about Jim’s character, mentioning that he had a great childhood, supportive parents, supportive friends his whole life, and yet still stole millions while conducting Bible studies in his basement.
She also mentioned that since Jim had plead guilty, she could not talk in detail about the government’s case against him, but she did want to address Jim’s public contention that the others involved in this scheme had not been indicted or imprisoned. She said that the lack of other’s names on these particular indictments against Jim was no accident. If this case had gone to trial, the others would have been brought forward, and much more would have been explained and revealed.
She said that the Eberles [sic?] were indicted and were both convicted of one count of Securities Fraud, and that they received the statutory maximum penalty for their crime. She said that Jim Staley “was not a minor participant” in this scheme like the others were.
She referenced the PFT live stream on Aug. 1, 2015, in which Jim claimed that he was “like Joseph, in the wrong place at the wrong time.” She then turned to Jim and said, “No the VICTIMS were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
She then read a list of the victims, identified by initials only, and the amount of money each lost.
She said the Jim has been unremorseful from the beginning until now, and when he was approached by his victims with questions as to why they weren’t receiving promised returns, he lied and said that everything was fine, long after the scheme had unraveled.
Finally, she referred to the Pre-Sentence Report that the prosecution had provided to the court and asked that the judge impose the maximum sentence allowable.
Mr. Rosenbloom, Jim’s defense lawyer, began by referring back to the judge’s opening remarks about the case being like 2 chapters in a book and said that Jim’s two chapters “create a dichotomy of the man.” He argued that the court shouldn’t overlook Jim’s devotion to family, his life work, and his ministry.
The lawyer then spent the rest of his statement talking about “Unwarranted Sentence Disparity,” which is an argument that seeks to compare similar offenses and their penalties to what the government was recommending for Jim. He stated that “Jim Staley is the same as the guys who got 5 years in California.” (Editorial note: this cannot be proven, but the prosecutor said exactly the opposite and claimed that had the case gone to trial, the fact that Jim was the major player would have been clearly demonstrated.)
It was obvious that Jim’s lawyer was trying to get only 5 years for Jim, though he mentioned and implied several times that even less, or even probation, would not be too lenient in this case.
The lawyer referred to the Aug. 1 PFT live stream where Jim both asserted and implied his innocence, ignoring a specific instruction not to speak as if he were innocent, which was detailed in the plea agreement. The lawyer claimed that he had a special meeting with Jim to ask him WHY he would do this? Why would Jim preach this way post-plea?
Jim answer, according to his lawyer, was that he was “struggling with himself during that service, that he had an epiphany, that at that moment he “accepted full responsibility for what he had done” and was “completely remorseful.” Jim claimed that in the middle of all that he “stopped parsing his words and his actions,” and that’s why he said what he did. (Editorial note, this doesn’t even make sense!)
The lawyer then accused the other players in this scheme of not accepting responsibility the way that Jim has. He claimed that the Eberles were the main perpetrators. He claimed it was the Eberles who continued to operate their scheme after the Cease and Desist order, and that Jim was taken in by them. He claimed that the “Sentence Disparity” was obvious and that the court should only impose 60 months, if that much.
He claimed that the Eberles received special consideration for their more advanced age, and that Jim should receive special consideration for his husband/father roles and his helping/pastoring other people.
Finally, he referred to other cases in which Judge Weber himself had imposed variances on what the government recommended in terms of sentences.
Jim Staley’s Statement to the Court prior to Sentencing
Jim did lots of crying all the way through the proceedings, but seemed especially emotional during his statement. It must be noted, however, that the moment the sentence was handed down, Jim dried up and never shed another tear.
Jim began by mentioning the victims and how he “struggles deeply” with what they have lost. He said he “believed in the product,” that he “thought he was helping.” He said, “I believed what I was told. I didn’t do my homework.”
He said that he apologizes to each victim and their families. He said “I’ve dedicated my life to help people.” “I’ve struggled. . .” “You weren’t trusting the product, you were trusting me.”
He repeatedly said that he was “taking full responsibility” for this and that at some point he had to admit to himself that he had “nefarious intentions.”
He said, “I’m going to make restitution. My faith requires it.”
Judge Webber’s Statement prior to Sentencing
The judge said that he had ordered additional security for the court for Mr. Staley’s protection, but that everyone had acted respectfully, for which he complimented the crowd. He also complimented the job the counsel on both sides had done.
The judge held up a sheet that he uses to weigh factors in regard to sentencing. He said that he weighs everything, including Jim’s marriage, his children, his parents, no previous convictions, no history of alcohol, drugs, or juvenile offenses. He also said that he has been informed that Jim has some medical condition that causes “constant pain in his knees,” and that he deals with anxiety attacks.
He also mentioned Jim’s salary of $10,000 per month, the circumstances of the offense, and the lack of previous remorse. He said that “today is the first day that Mr. Staley has expressed any remorse,” and that Jim had previously repeatedly downplayed his role in the offense.
He also mentioned that he had reports from the parole officers who had been dealing with Jim since his arrest.
The judge handed down the sentence of 84 months, or 7 years, followed by 3 years of supervised release. He gave him 72 hours to report for incarceration and again ordered restitution.
He stated that defense could file an appeal of the sentence, not the conviction, within 14 days.
He then invited the defense to make statements or petitions related to the sentence.
Mr. Rosenbloom requested that Jim be incarcerated as close to St. Louis as possible. He requested that Jim be allowed to “self-surrender” when the prison was actually ready for him, rather than his having to wait in jail for a transfer to his actual prison facility. This was granted.