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Children of reality TV's Chrisleys hope court hearing is step toward bringing convicted parents home

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Children of reality TV's Chrisleys hope court hearing is step toward bringing convicted parents home
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Children of reality TV's Chrisleys hope court hearing is step toward bringing convicted parents home

2024-04-19 23:15 Last Updated At:23:20

ATLANTA (AP) — Lawyers for reality TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley, who are in prison after being convicted on federal charges of bank fraud and tax evasion, on Friday challenged aspects of their convictions and sentences in a federal appeals court.

The Chrisleys rose to fame with their show “Chrisley Knows Best,” which chronicled the exploits of their tight-knit family. But prosecutors said they engaged in an extensive bank fraud scheme and hid their earnings from tax authorities while showcasing their extravagant lifestyle.

Peter Tarantino, an accountant they hired, also is serving time in prison. He wants his conviction thrown out and to be granted a new trial.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Friday heard arguments from lawyers for the three.

Two of the Chrisleys' children, Savannah and Chase, were joined by more than a dozen supporters in the gallery of the courtroom. Savannah Chrisley spoke to reporters after the hearing, saying she talked to her parents Thursday night and that they are “doing as best as they can” and hope that Friday's hearing is a step toward getting them home.

“We have all come together and we are closer than ever,” she said of her family.

The Chrisleys initially were charged in August 2019. In June 2022, a jury found them guilty of conspiring to defraud community banks out of more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. They also were found guilty of tax evasion and conspiring to defraud the IRS, and Julie Chrisley was convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

Todd Chrisley, 56, is at a minimum security federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida, with a release date in October 2032, while Julie Chrisley, 51, is at a facility in Lexington, Kentucky, and is due for release in July 2028, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website.

Tarantino, 61, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the United States and willfully filing false tax returns. He is being held in a minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, with a release date in September of next year.

Prosecutors have said the Chrisleys walked away from their responsibility to repay loans when Todd Chrisley declared bankruptcy. While in bankruptcy, they started their reality show and “flaunted their wealth and lifestyle to the American public,” and then hid the millions they made from the show from the IRS, prosecutors have said.

Alex Little, a lawyer for the Chrisleys, argued that an IRS officer lied on the stand about the couple still owing taxes at the time of trial when she knew no taxes were due and that prosecutors knowingly presented and failed to correct that false testimony.

“They relied on information they knew to be incorrect,” Little said.

Prosecutor Annalise Peters rejected that assertion, saying that when the IRS officer testified, she and prosecutors were unaware of some tax payments the Chrisleys had made. But she said the couple did still owe some taxes at the time.

Circuit Judge Robin Rosenbaum, who grilled both sides during the hearing, seemed skeptical of the idea that prosecutors had conspired with an IRS officer to present false information, saying evidence the defense presented in a brief “seemed like pure speculation.”

The Chrisleys' lawyers also argue that the trial judge was wrong to allow certain evidence without requiring prosecutors to show it wasn't obtained during an unlawful search. And they argue prosecutors failed to provide enough evidence to convict the Chrisleys of tax evasion and conspiracy, showing only that they used a common entertainment industry practice to receive acting income.

They also argue prosecutors failed to produce any evidence that Julie Chrisley participated in bank fraud. They say the judge erred by ordering restitution and forfeiture of assets.

Todd Chrisley should be acquitted on the tax evasion and conspiracy counts and given a new trial on the remaining counts, his lawyers argue. Alternatively, the appeals court should send the case back to the trial court to hold a hearing on his claims that the IRS officer lied and evidence was improperly admitted.

Julie Chrisley should be acquitted on the five bank fraud charges, her lawyers argue. They also say her sentence on the remaining charges, including $17.2 million in restitution that she and her husband were ordered to pay, should be wiped away and she should be resentenced on those counts.

Prosecutors argue there was sufficient evidence at trial to support the charges and jury verdicts, and that the evidence was properly obtained and admitted. Peters argued that there was also no evidence that the IRS officer's testimony affected the jury's verdict.

Even if the Chrisleys eventually paid what they owed, “later actions do not nullify the crime,” Peters said.

Don Samuel, a lawyer for Tarantino, argued that his client was harmed by being tried with the Chrisleys and he urged the court to reverse Tarantino’s conviction and return his case to the lower court for a new trial.

While Tarantino did certain things that ended up facilitating the Chrisleys' fraudulent conduct, there was no evidence he did anything intentionally to facilitate that conduct, Samuel said. The scope of the charges against the Chrisleys “dwarfed the evidence” against Tarantino and prejudiced the jury against him, Samuel said.

Peters said there was substantial evidence demonstrating Tarantino's personal involvement and he can't demonstrate actual, compelling evidence that he was harmed by being tried along with the Chrisleys.

Associated Press writer Kenya Hunter contributed to this report.

FILE - Todd Chrisley, left, and his wife, Julie Chrisley, pose for photos at the 52nd annual Academy of Country Music Awards on April 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. Todd and Julie Chrisley, who are in prison after being convicted on federal charges of bank fraud and tax evasion, are challenging aspects of their convictions and sentences in a federal appeals court.(Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - Todd Chrisley, left, and his wife, Julie Chrisley, pose for photos at the 52nd annual Academy of Country Music Awards on April 2, 2017, in Las Vegas. Todd and Julie Chrisley, who are in prison after being convicted on federal charges of bank fraud and tax evasion, are challenging aspects of their convictions and sentences in a federal appeals court.(Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

PARIS (AP) — Even Carlos Alcaraz couldn't tell you exactly what's been wrong with his right forearm, the part of his body that is responsible for his thunderous forehands — and also is responsible for sidelining him during nearly all of April and May as the French Open approached.

He knows this much: “I'm a little bit scared about hitting every forehand 100%.”

Alcaraz, a two-time major champion, is just one of the top players in men's tennis who enters the year's second Grand Slam tournament with some doubts about what form they will be in when competition begins at Roland Garros on Sunday.

Jannik Sinner, who won the Australian Open in January, hasn't played at all in May because of a bad hip that forced him to pull out of the Madrid Open before the quarterfinals and skip the Italian Open entirely.

Defending French Open champion Novak Djokovic, he of the No. 1 ranking and 24 Grand Slam titles, had only played eight matches since January by the time he lost his second contest in Rome, so took the unusual-for-him step of entering the lower-tier Geneva Open this week to prepare on clay — and lost in the semifinals there Friday to 44th-ranked Tomas Machac.

With 14-time champion Rafael Nadal about to turn 38, just 7-4 this season after hip and abdominal injuries and no longer the near-lock for the title he used to be in Paris, it's anyone's guess what'll happen over the coming two weeks.

Then again, Alcaraz is not taking anything for granted.

“It doesn’t matter (if Sinner is) coming from an injury. I think he has the capacity to come here and play in such a high level and be able to win it. Same as Rafa; same as Djokovic,” Alcaraz said. "Probably we don’t see them playing at (their) best tennis, but it’s a Grand Slam, it’s Roland Garros, and I think they have chances to win the tournament.”

As for his arm, the good news is Alcaraz says he doesn't have discomfort.

Even if the precise nature of what's been wrong escapes him.

“When I do the tests, when I’m talking with the doctors, my team, they explain to me what I have. ... I listen to them, but I forget,” Alcaraz said with his trademark wide smile. “What I remember is they told me that this is not going to be serious, it’s not going to take too much time. But here we are, recovering. I’m not feeling any pain in the practices when I step on the court. But I’m still thinking about it when I'm hitting forehands.”

There is a lot to like about the way Coco Gauff plays tennis, of course. That's why she enters the French Open as the No. 3 seed and the reigning champion of the U.S. Open.

It's not all perfect, of course. And among the things Gauff has been working on lately is her serve, particularly her second serve, in order to try to avoid accumulating the high double-fault counts she's had recently.

During the clay-court circuit that leads into the major that begins Sunday at Roland Garros, Gauff has double-faulted 92 times across 10 matches, an average of 9.2. Hardly ideal.

That total came from 45 double-faults in five matches in Rome — where she reached the semifinals before losing to eventual champion Iga Swiatek — 24 in three matches in Madrid, and 23 in two matches in Stuttgart.

How Gauff fares with that aspect of her game could affect how far she can make it this time in Paris, where the 20-year-old American was the runner-up to Swiatek in 2022.

“I have been trying to improve it with every tournament, from the start of the clay to Rome,” she said Friday.

“I feel like it’s getting better, but it’s obviously a shot that I feel is tough to change just because, when you’re tight or whatever, you kind of revert back to what you know works,” Gauff said. “Sometimes it’s tough to push yourself to do the uncomfortable things which you know in the long term are better for you.”

The first time Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka played each other came at a Davis Cup match in 2005. Murray was 18; Wawrinka 20. When they meet each other for the 23rd time — in the first round of the French Open on Sunday — Murray will be 37 and Wawrinka 39, and each is a three-time major champion.

“I smiled at the draw, of course,” Wawrinka said Friday.

It is a showdown that would have garnered headlines when they were in their primes. Still could draw a good crowd, not so much for what both are capable of these days, but where both have been.

“Should be a brilliant atmosphere,” said Murray, who is recovering from a serious ankle injury that kept him out of action for the better part of two months.

There's this oddity involved with the matchup: This will be the fourth consecutive French Open appearance for Murray that will feature a match against Wawrinka. Murray beat Wawrinka in the 2016 semifinals in Paris, lost to him in the 2017 semifinals, then missed the 2018 and 2019 editions, lost to Wawrinka in the first round in 2020, and did not make it to Roland Garros in 2021, 2022 or 2023.

Murray points to his five-set loss to Wawrinka seven years ago as the final match his hip could take before requiring the first of two operations.

“My hip was in so much pain. I remember, we were staying in a house near here and I remember getting up in the night because I couldn’t sleep. I was just lying on the sofa in loads of pain. Never recovered,” Murray said. “I couldn’t extend my leg behind me anymore properly after that match. It was a shame.”

Murray vs. Wawrinka in 2020 was the first time two men with Grand Slam titles faced off in the first round at Roland Garros since Yevgeny Kafelnikov against Michael Chang in 1999. They'll do it again Sunday.

Howard Fendrich has been the AP’s tennis writer since 2002. Find his stories here: https://apnews.com/author/howard-fendrich

AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

Elina Svitolina of Ukraine returns a ball to Anna Kalinskaya, of Russia, during their match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Sunday, May 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Elina Svitolina of Ukraine returns a ball to Anna Kalinskaya, of Russia, during their match at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Sunday, May 12, 2024. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

FILE - Britain's Andy Murray, left, applauds for Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka, right, after Murray won the semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament in four sets, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Friday, June 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

FILE - Britain's Andy Murray, left, applauds for Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka, right, after Murray won the semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament in four sets, 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Friday, June 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

FILE - Britain's Andy Murray, right, shakes hands with Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka after their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, Friday, June 3, 2016 in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

FILE - Britain's Andy Murray, right, shakes hands with Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka after their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, Friday, June 3, 2016 in Paris. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

FILE - Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka, left, and Britain's Andy Murray pose before their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium, Friday, June 9, 2017, in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

FILE - Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka, left, and Britain's Andy Murray pose before their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium, Friday, June 9, 2017, in Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

Coco Gauff of the United States, left, shakes hands with Poland's Iga Swiatek during a semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Coco Gauff of the United States, left, shakes hands with Poland's Iga Swiatek during a semi final match at the Italian Open tennis tournament, in Rome, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

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