Todd and Julie Chrisley plan to appeal convictions and prison sentences, attorney says
An attorney representing Todd and Julie Chrisley said the reality stars plan to appeal their federal prison sentences and convictions for tax evasion and bank fraud.
Alex Little, family attorney for the husband-and-wife stars of USA Network’s “Chrisley Knows Best," said prosecutors misled jurors about the Chrisleys not paying their taxes and relied on illegally obtained evidence throughout the trial.
"Their trial was marred by serious and repeated errors, including the government lying to jurors about what taxes the couple paid," Little said in a statement. "Based on these issues, we are optimistic about the road ahead."
U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross in Atlanta sentenced Todd Chrisley on Monday to 12 years in prison and 16 months probation and his wife, Julie Chrisley, to seven years in prison and 16 months probation.
The length of their sentence terms was less than what was federally recommended due to the couple's ages, health and their care for Todd's mother, who has health issues, said criminal defense attorney Bruce Morris, who represented the couple during the trial.
Ross had ordered the Chrisleys to serve their prison terms in Florida facilities — the minimum-security Federal Prison Camp in Pensacola for Todd and low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee for Julie — to allow their children time to visit both parents within a single day, Morris said.
However, after the sentencing hearing Monday, both Chrisleys were allowed to return home, where they currently remain. They were ordered to voluntarily surrender to authorities on Jan. 15, Little said.
Within the appeal, Little told the court after the sentencing, he plans to request that the Chrisleys remain free until the appellate court makes a decision. That process could take up to two years.
Little told The Times that the couple has "a good chance at winning."
"We want to be able to have the appellate court hear their appeal, which we believe presents some serious questions in the conviction," Little said.
Both Chrisleys were charged in 2019 with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States and tax fraud. Julie Chrisley was also charged with wire fraud and obstruction of justice. A jury found the couple guilty on all charges in June.
Prosecutors alleged that the Chrisleys, along with their accountant, submitted fake documents to banks when applying for loans, defrauding banks of more than $36 million, to fund their expensive lifestyle. They said the couple spent the money on luxury cars, designer clothes, real estate and travel. Prosecutors also accused Julie Chrisley of submitting a false credit report and fake bank statements when trying to rent a house in California, and that the couple then refused to pay rent a few months after they started using the home.
Allegations also included a scheme to defraud the Internal Revenue Service to avoid paying taxes, prosecutors said. The Chrisleys failed to file tax returns or pay any taxes from 2013 to 2016, even as their wealth amassed while they starred in their reality TV show, which debuted in 2014.
“As this sentencing proves, when you lie, cheat, and steal, justice is blind to your fame, fortune, and position,” said Keri Farley, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta, in a statement after Monday’s sentencing.
However, since the June conviction, the Chrisleys' attorneys have filed repeated motions, asking for a new trial and attempting to cast doubt on the prosecution's case. They said prosecutors lied to the court, leaned on illegal evidence and provided a lack of evidence to prove the couple was involved in a conspiracy to defraud the government. In one motion, attorneys deflected much of the blame onto the Chrisleys' accountant, Peter Tarantino, who was also convicted and sentenced to prison for his role.
"The only agreement established by the evidence at trial is that Tarantino prepared the Chrisley's tax returns," attorneys wrote in court documents. "But there is no evidence the Chrisleys knew what information Tarantino included in their returns or that the information included was false."
The Chrisleys' most recent main contention rested on an IRS agent who their attorneys said "misled the jury and the Court" during the trial, according to court documents.
In a motion for a new trial filed in August, Chrisleys' attorneys alleged an IRS agent, Officer Betty Carter, had lied to the jury while giving testimony and to the court about the couple not paying their taxes in 2014 and 2015, referring to an audit of IRS records. They said prosecutors also knew about and encouraged the IRS agent's plan to mislead the jury, and had failed to inform the court.
"This testimony had the effect of falsely painting the Chrisleys as untruthful, likely to commit other forms of fraud, and evading the tax payments alleged in the indictment," the Chrisleys' attorneys wrote in the motion.
A later motion filed earlier this month also called on the court to sanction Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas Krepp and Annalise Peters, the prosecutors in the case, for their alleged part in the false testimony and to mislead the court.
The Chrisleys also argued that much of the prosecution's evidence of tax records was "obtained illegally" in searches of warehouses. They called the search warrants "fatally overbroad." Evidence from the initial search allowed IRS agents to search for more evidence used to incriminate the couple, court documents said.
Although Judge Ross rejected the earlier motions, the Chrisleys are expected to make these arguments again before the appellate court in their appeal of their convictions and sentences.
“Yesterday was a difficult day for the Chrisley family," Little's statement continued. "But Todd and Julie are people of faith, and that faith gives them strength as they appeal their convictions."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.