Former Erie, Pennsylvania auto dealer Adam J. Weaver will have to make public the reasons he wants his term of supervised release to end early in his fraud case.
A federal judge has denied Weaver’s unusual request to seal a motion that details why he wants his three-year term of supervised release, similar to probation, to end before the term is scheduled to expire in September.
Senior U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone, seated in Pittsburgh, ruled against Weaver’s request on Monday, leading to the cancellation of a hearing on the request that had been scheduled for Tuesday.
As the Erie Times-News first reported, the lead assistant U.S. attorney in Erie, Christian Trabold, opposed Weaver’s request, citing longstanding law that judicial proceedings and documents are generally open to the public.
Trabold also said that Weaver’s request for early release involves the possibility that he would seek a loan from the city of Erie for some kind of business venture that he would pursue once his term of supervision ended. Trabold has access to the motion that Weaver wanted to be sealed, and Trabold made a limited reference to its contents in his response to Weaver’s request.
In a one-page order, Cercone said he agreed with Trabold that Weaver’s motion should not be sealed.
“As aptly noted by the government, the defendant has failed to displace the presumption created by the common law right of access that attaches to judicial documents,” Cercone said in the order. He said that the presumption of openness “is further strengthened here given the potential involvement of local government entities and the use of a City of Erie economic development loan,'” quoting from Trabold’s response.
Weaver’s lawyers, Efrem Grail and Brian Bevan, of Pittsburgh, had not filed the unsealed motion as of Tuesday morning. Once that motion is filed, Cercone will consider Weaver’s request for early release. The defense could also choose not to file the motion and drop Weaver’s request.
In unsuccessfully asking for the motion to be sealed, Weaver’s lawyers argued in a filing that Cercone should keep the motion’s contents secret to protect “confidential, sensitive, proprietary financial information about third parties,” apparently referring to those that could be part of Weaver’s plans.
Weaver in 2017 pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in a scheme that operated in 2015 and 2016. The scheme involved Rick Weaver Buick GMC, the family business where he had been president. The dealership remains open at West 12th and Liberty streets. Weaver in April 2018 was sentenced to a four-month prison sentence, serving it at the minimum-security Federal Correctional Institution in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Weaver, who was 41 and living in Fairview when he was sentenced, got out of prison in September 2018 but still had to serve the rest of his sentence — three years of supervised release.
The period of supervised release is scheduled to end at the end of September, according to court records.
Weaver was indicted in September 2016. The government accused him and two co-defendants of fraudulently generating profits by inflating the price of vehicles through the use of straw buyers who paid for the vehicles with bank loans. The straw buyers defaulted on the loans, leaving lenders unable to recoup the cost of the loans.
Weaver’s guilty plea forced him out of his leadership role at the Weaver dealership, which is still under family control. He had to step down as president and divest his ownership stake in the company when he pleaded guilty because GMC prohibits a felon from owning a dealership, a lawyer for the Weaver dealership said at the time.