HomePoliticsFormer Tennessee state senator gets 21 months in prison for campaign finance...

Former Tennessee state senator gets 21 months in prison for campaign finance money scheme

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A former Tennessee state senator was sentenced Friday to 21 months in prison after unsuccessfully attempting to withdraw his guilty plea on federal campaign finance charges, initially describing the case as a “political witch hunt.”

Former Republican Senator Brian Kelsey received his sentence in U.S. District Court in Nashville in the case that centered on his attempts to funnel campaign money from his legislative seat to support his failed 2016 congressional bid. He does not have to start his prison sentence until October.

“I think it is necessary to convict you who are signaling general deterrence,” U.S. Judge Waverly Crenshaw said Friday.

Crenshaw handed down the sentence after the former Memphis-area lawmaker argued in March that he should be allowed to repeat his November 2022 IOU because he entered it with an “uncertain heart and confused mind” due to events in his personal life. to live. – his father had terminal pancreatic cancer and died in February, and he and his wife were caring for their twin sons who were born in September. Crenshaw denied the change of plea in May.

See also  Special counsel obtained Trump DMs despite Twitter's 'memorable' bid to show deferment, unsealed filings show

Before that, Kelsey had pleaded not guilty — often saying he was targeted by Democrats. But he changed his mind shortly after his co-defendant, Nashville social club owner Joshua Smith, pleaded guilty to one charge under a deal that required him to “cooperate fully and truthfully” with federal authorities.

Late last month, federal prosecutors charged Kelsey with deliberately delaying his sentencing after he switched his legal defense team.

Dozens of Kelsey’s friends and family filled the Nashville courtroom, where many quietly wept and comforted each other as Crenshaw explained why he sentenced Kelsey to 21 months in prison.

“I am truly sorry for the actions that led me here today,” Kelsey told the court. “I knew I was taking a risk and yet I did it, breaking the law.”

Prosecutors had initially demanded 41 months in jail and spent most of their argument on Friday portraying Kelsey as a “sophisticated mastermind” behind a complicated campaign plan designed to override federal financial regulations.

See also  How every GOP presidential candidate performed with likely caucusgoers in new Iowa Poll

However, Kelsey’s lawyers countered that the former legislator had simply crossed a “very small line” and that the government was seeking a harsher sentence because he had not shown enough remorse for his actions.

Still, Crenshaw noted that of the four character witnesses who testified that day, only one — former Democratic state representative John DeBerry — said Kelsey regretted his actions.

“Life is about living with consequences,” said DeBerry, who worked closely with Kelsey while working at the Tennessee Statehouse. “When we lose ourselves, you forget to do it the right way every time.”

In October 2021, a federal grand jury indicted Kelsey and Smith, who own The Standard club in Nashville, each on different counts. The indictment alleged that Kelsey, Smith and others violated campaign finance laws by illegally transferring $91,000 from Kelsey’s state Senate campaign committee and $25,000 from a non-profit advocacy for legal issues – to a national political organization, the American Conservative Union to finance. ads urging support for Kelsey’s congressional campaign.

Prosecutors allege that Kelsey and others caused the organization to make illegal and excessive campaign contributions to Kelsey by coordinating advertisements, and caused the nonprofit to file false reports with the Federal Election Commission.

See also  Trump campaign is fundraising off of new indictment as reports reveal pro-Trump PAC is doling out millions for legal bills

Two co-conspirators were also involved, including former Tennessee Rep. Jeremy Durham, a Republican, who was expelled in 2016 over multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Durham cooperated with federal officials in Kelsey’s case and has not been charged.

Kelsey’s lawyer had argued that since Durham was not facing jail time, neither should their client. Crenshaw disagreed, repeatedly pointing out that Durham and others agreed early on to work with federal officials.

Kelsey, a 45-year-old attorney from Germantown, was first elected to the General Assembly as a state representative in 2004. He was later elected to the Senate in 2009.

Due to his conviction, Kelsey is barred from running for state office in Tennessee and has had his law license revoked. He was also ordered to surrender all weapons in his possession.


Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattise contributed to this report from Nashville, Tennessee.

- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments