guilty plea

Kelsey wants to take back guilty plea made with ‘unsure heart and confused mind’

Then-Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), right, attends a Senate Education Committee meeting in Nashville on April 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

When former state Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges in November, he signed a document stating: “I offer my plea of ‘GUILTY’ freely and voluntarily and of my own accord; also, my lawyers have explained to me, and I feel and believe I understand this petition.” Now, Kelsey wants out of the deal.

According to a motion filed Friday, Kelsey is seeking to withdraw his plea and wants the judge to dismiss the entire case against him for conspiring to funnel campaign money from his state account to support his failed congressional bid in 2016.

“The stress of simultaneously dealing with a terminally ill father, newborn twins, and a three-year-old daughter” caused Kelsey to have “an unsure heart and a confused mind” when he agreed to plead guilty, according to the filing.

Kelsey in a sworn declaration said he had lost his license to practice law, access to banking system, and his job. According to Kelsey, a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

Other than speeding tickets, I have had no experience with the criminal justice system as a defendant. As an attorney, I exclusively practiced civil law. Prior to the days leading up to the plea agreement in this case, I was unfamiliar with the federal criminal sentencing guidelines and the process of entering a plea agreement with no agreement as to what the sentence would be and without which the government would claim to seek a vastly enhanced ‘trial penalty’ for a defendant wishing to exercise his constitutional rights.

Kelsey law license suspended following guilty plea

Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), right, attends a Senate Education Committee meeting in Nashville on April 16, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Former state Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) has had his law license suspended after pleading guilty to two federal felonies stemming from campaign finance crimes during his 2016 congressional bid.

Here’s the announcement from the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility:

On December 8, 2022, the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended Brian Kirk Kelsey from the practice of law until further orders of the Court pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 22.3. Mr. Kelsey pled Guilty to two (2) felonies involving conspiracy to defraud the United States and aiding and abetting the acceptance of excessive contributions.

Pursuant to the Order of the Supreme Court, the matter has been referred to the Board to institute formal proceedings to determine the extent of the final discipline to be imposed upon Mr. Kelsey as a result of his plea of guilty to conduct constituting a serious crime as defined by Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 2.

Mr. Kelsey must comply with the requirements of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 9, Section 28, regarding the obligations and responsibilities of suspended attorneys.


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