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Former state Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, last week filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea in a federal campaign finance case, less than two weeks before he was slated to be sentenced on March 28.
Now, a federal judge has canceled that sentencing hearing, and the sentencing of Kelsey's co-defendant Joshua Smith. Smith had asked the court to delay his sentencing until after the Kelsey issue was decided.
The prosecution has an April 14 deadline to respond to Kelsey's motion to withdraw his plea, and both parties were tasked with prepping for a potential evidentiary hearing with witnesses while the court considers Kelsey's request.
With new legal representation, Kelsey argued a number of reasons, including personal tragedy and the stress from newborn twins, led to him mistakenly pleading guilty last fall on charges he now wants to argue have no legal merit.
Kelsey also stated in court filings that he, a Georgetown-trained attorney who once chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, had no experience with the criminal justice system and didn't fully appreciate the concept of a plea bargain and sentencing guidelines. Kelsey has not argued he was improperly advised or represented by his attorney at the time of accepting the prosecution's deal.
Prosecutors have said Kelsey and Smith conspired to move tens of thousands of dollars from Kelsey's state Senate campaign account to a national political organization, which then bought political advertising for Kelsey's congressional campaign. The organization made another $80,000 worth of contributions to the campaign.
Kelsey maintained his innocence up until his initial plea deal, and filings made in federal court indicate his legal team would file a new motion to dismiss the case if his plea revocation is approved.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Sentencing for Brian Kelsey canceled as he seeks change in guilty plea