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Court to hear oral arguments in Paul Solofa appeal

Oral arguments in the appeal of his conviction and sentence by former Education Department official Paul Solofa have been ordered for December by the federal appellate court in Washington D.C.


Solofa appealed earlier this year his 2012 conviction on witness tempering and obstruction of justice. He also appealed the lengthy jail term of 35 months.


HIs attorneys argued in appeal documents that the defendant - during trial - didn’t get effective assistance from his trial attorney who failed to raise an “entrapment defense”, and that the court erred by handing down a much longer jail term than is required by federal sentencing guidelines.


The U.S. Justice Department disagreed with the appellate defense attorney’s argument, saying that the court didn’t make any error in sentencing and that the trial defense attorney’s “performance was neither deficient nor prejudicial... because Solofa did not have a viable entrapment defense.”


Final briefs were filed Aug. 30 this year but there was no indication at all as to when the appellate court will issue a decision. There was also no indication that the court will be hearing oral arguments.


However, last Friday, the appellate court issued an order saying “on the court's own motion, that this case be scheduled for oral argument” on Dec. 11 and the arguments will be heard by three judges.  The court plans to issue a separate order regarding the allocation of time for argument.


Prosecutors had accused Solofa as the mastermind behind the Department of Education school bus spare parts kick-back scheme, but have remained silent on why the former DOE chief financial officer was never charged with bribery, or whether he will ever be charged.


The only one charged and sentenced so far, is Gustav Nauer, the former DOE bus division mechanic. Court documents revealed that Oscar Mayer, the general manager of Pacific Products - the local company that provided spare parts to DOE buses - became an informant for the government in this case, but he was never charged and there is no indication in court records as to whether he will ever be charged.


Solofa is currently serving his jail term at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu.