Judge allows Kelsey to remain free while appealing sentence

By: - September 26, 2023 9:54 pm
Former Sen. Brian Kelsey prepares to enter Nashville's federal courthouse on Aug. 11., 2023.for sentencing in a federal campaign finance scheme. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Former Sen. Brian Kelsey prepares to enter Nashville’s federal courthouse on Aug. 11., 2023.for sentencing in a federal campaign finance scheme. (Photo: John Partipilo)

A U.S. District Court judge granted convicted felon Brian Kelsey’s request to stay out of prison on bail while he appeals a 21-month sentence for directing a scheme to violate federal campaign finance laws.

The former Germantown Republican senator was to report to prison in mid-October, but Judge Waverly Crenshaw of the Middle District in Nashville issued an order allowing him to remain free as his attorney, Alex Little, argues the case before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The Tennessee Journal reported the matter first Tuesday.

In a spirited court hearing last week, Little contended federal prosecutors violated a plea agreement after Kelsey reneged on a November 2022 guilty plea on two counts of breaking federal campaign finance laws. 

Feds pushed for a longer sentence of up to 41 months after saying Kelsey used “stall tactics” to get out of the guilty plea when he said he was unable to make good decisions because of crying twin babies and a sick father, who later died.

Prosecutors said Kelsey broke the agreement first by trying to take back his guilty plea, which caused him to commit perjury. Despite their request for a harsher sentence, Crenshaw took character witnesses into account and meted out less than half the longest sentence the feds sought.

Kelsey pleaded guilty to directing a secret plan to funnel about $109,000 from his state campaign account through two political action committees to the American Conservative Union, which bought radio/digital ads for his failed 2016 congressional campaign.

Kelsey bail

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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial and Best Single Feature from the Tennessee Press Association.