U.S. District Judge Eleanor L. Ross in November sentenced Todd Chrisley, primary star of USA Network’s “Chrisley Knows Best,” to 12 years in federal prison in Pensacola, Florida that is deemed a minimum security facility.
Julie Chrisley received seven years in the Federal Medical Center Lexington in Lexington, Kentucky, which holds inmates of all security classifications. She was originally set to go to a prison in Tallahassee, Florida, but the location changed at the last second.
While the couple aren’t allowed to talk to each other by phone, federal guidelines allow them to correspond by mail and special electronic mail and send packages to each other if the wardens approve. Their correspondence is open to inspection by staff.
Brandon Essig, a Birmingham defense attorney and former federal prosecutor who has followed the case, said the bond denial isn’t necessarily uncommon, but he felt the couple’s consistent lack of repentance hurt them.
During sentencing, Essig said that if a defense client shows some level of remorse and acceptance of consequences for their conduct, judges will take that into consideration.
He said the judge even addressed the Chrisleys’ absence of contrition in court, which is unusual.
“It looks to me that their hubris, lack of humility and unwillingness to accept responsibility put them in a worse position legally,” Essig said.
The Chrisleys, when they have discussed the case publicly, have consistently denied wrongdoing.
Essig said the couple’s sentencing in November was relatively harsh, noting that federal judges will on average punish white-collar criminals at 50% of federal sentencing guidelines. This means if the recommendations say 10 years in prison, the judge will give the convicted criminal five years. Both Chrisleys were given sentences more than 50% of recommended guidelines.
And even with good behavior, white-collar criminals generally can shave only 15% of the time off their sentence, which is about two years for Todd and a year for Julie.
Their sentences came in part due to how their bank loans, which the Chrisleys did not fully pay back, played a role in sending three small banks into receivership, a sign the banks were in severe financial distress and the federal government assigns a receiver to clean up the mess. Prosecutors accused the Chrisleys of filing false paperwork claiming far more wealth than they possessed so they could receive $36 million in fraudulent loans from 2007 to 2012.
The Chrisleys were ordered last month to pay $17 million in restitution to eight banks. .
In a sentencing memorandum Nov. 16, the prosecutors wrote: “The jury’s unanimous verdict sets the record straight: Todd and Julie Chrisley are career swindlers who have made a living by jumping from one fraud scheme to another, lying to banks, stiffing vendors, and evading taxes at every corner.”
USA Network after the sentencing officially canceled “Chrisley Knows Best,” a spin-off show featuring two of the children and a never-filmed dating show that was supposed to be hosted by Todd Chrisley.