Just days before a sentencing hearing that could put him behind bars for more than three decades, Billy G. Jefferson Jr.’s defense team is arguing for a 12-year prison term for the embattled Richmond landlord.
Jefferson’s attorneys made their case in a court filing late Thursday. Last week, federal prosecutors called for a 30-year sentence. Jefferson faces a maximum of 37 years after pleading guilty to four felony counts in December 2013 and June of this year.
The defense said that Jefferson did some good around town prior to his arrest. They noted that he has donated time and money to community organizations around Richmond and took on several real estate development projects that have “played a central role” in revitalization around Richmond.
“Fraud notwithstanding, Manchester, the Fan, and Richmond are better places thanks to Mr. Jefferson’s efforts,” the Thursday filing read.
The filing also said that Jefferson would be highly unlikely to repeat his crime. Jefferson would be 64 years old upon release if sentenced to 12 years.
“He surely will not be given another tax credit or real estate development loan ever again; his career is effectively over,” the defense reasoned.
The defense’s sentence request is within the guidelines laid out in a presentence report prepared by a federal probation officer. That report, though it remains sealed, has been referenced in court filings and suggests Jefferson should serve a term between 11 years and slightly more than 13 years.
In December Jefferson’s defense team and prosecutors agreed to recommend a 6.5-year sentence for his historic tax credit fraud. But that was before he was indicted on additional charges related to an attempt to flee the country on a one-way charter flight to England just prior to his guilty plea.
Prosecutors argued that Jefferson deserved a far steeper sentence after taking several Las Vegas gambling trips and spending millions of dollars that could have been used for a $9 million restitution. They also allege he was hoarding cash, gift cards and casino chips in a hidden PVC pipe vault.
The presentence report called those actions as an obstruction of justice that could factor into a higher sentence.
His defense last week unsuccessfully argued against including the increase for obstruction and was also denied a claim for a potential sentence decrease for Jefferson’s acceptance of responsibility for his actions.
Jefferson is represented by Chuck James of Williams Mullen and John Martin of Hunton & Williams.
Judge John A. Gibney, who will have the final say in Jefferson’s sentencing, said in a hearing last week that he did not put much weight in Jefferson’s attempt to flee because it is likely not uncommon for white-collar criminals to consider skipping town ahead of a sentence.
Jefferson’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 23. In addition to prison time, Jefferson also owes more than $9 million worth of restitution for his tax credit fraud. So far he has paid about $1.76 million in restitution and another $750,000 to satisfy a forfeiture obligation.