Jefferson appeals 20-year sentence

Billy G. Jefferson Jr.

Billy G. Jefferson Jr.

After being sentenced to federal prison for a multimillion-dollar tax credit fraud, a local landlord is fighting for less time behind bars.

Billy G. Jefferson Jr. filed an appeal last week in federal court to reduce the 20-year sentence he received in September. His lawyers argued in the 37-page filing that the punishment is “substantively unreasonable.”

His appeal says that 20 years is much longer than what the high end of the federal sentencing guidelines advised, which was between 11 and just more than 13 years. It asks for the initial sentence to be tossed out and for his case to be remanded for resentencing.

Jefferson, who is serving his time in a low-security federal prison in Yazoo City, Mississippi, pleaded guilty to a $13 million tax credit fraud and an attempted scheme to flee the country using a stolen identity. The U.S. District Court in Richmond handed down his sentence.

His appeal centers on the idea that the judge also took into account the prosecution’s unproven argument that Jefferson obstructed justice by hoarding and spending cash that could have gone toward his restitution.

Prior to his guilty plea, Jefferson took high-rolling trips to Las Vegas and sent funds to his ex-wife to pre-pay the alimony and child support that he would owe while in prison.

Prosecutors and the judge took issue with that spending in light of the looming $9 million restitution.

But his appeal argues that those instances were not attempts to obstruct justice. It states that nothing Jefferson did impacted the investigation, prosecution or sentencing.

“The district court’s findings provide nothing to suggest that it found that Jefferson had the requisite intent, or that it even considered the question,” the appeal states.

The appeal’s second argument claims that the sentence does not “reflect an individualized assessment of Jefferson or his case.”

The appeal claims that the court had deterrence in mind: “sending the word forth that fraud would be punished severely and punishing Jefferson for a perceived disrespect of the law.”

The defense had requested a 12-year sentence, and the prosecution countered by asking for 30 years.

Jefferson is represented by John Martin and John Beerbower of Hunton & Williams and Chuck James and Jonathan Lucier of Williams Mullen.

“We hope there will be a resentencing and look forward to presenting our case to the court of appeals,” Martin said in a statement.

A bankruptcy hearing set for Tuesday could decide the fate of Jefferson’s River City Renaissance real estate portfolio, which consists of 29 apartment buildings through the Fan and Museum District. A judge may decide that the properties should go back to auction.

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