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Reality TV's Julie Chrisley must be resentenced in bank fraud, tax evasion case, appeals judges rule

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Reality TV's Julie Chrisley must be resentenced in bank fraud, tax evasion case, appeals judges rule
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Reality TV's Julie Chrisley must be resentenced in bank fraud, tax evasion case, appeals judges rule

2024-06-22 07:53 Last Updated At:08:00

ATLANTA (AP) — Reality TV star Julie Chrisley’s sentence for bank fraud and tax evasion was thrown out Friday by federal appeals judges, who ordered a lower court to redo her punishment over what the appellate panel called a “narrow issue.”

Julie Chrisley and her husband, Todd Chrisley, who earned fame for the show "Chrisley Knows Best" that chronicled the exploits of their tight-knit family, were convicted in 2022 of conspiring to defraud community banks out of more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. The Chrisleys were also found guilty of tax evasion by hiding their earnings while showcasing an extravagant lifestyle.

The couple's accountant, Peter Tarantino, stood trial with them and was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and willfully filing false tax returns.

A three-judge panel of 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the convictions of the Chrisleys and Tarantino in a ruling that found a legal error only in how the trial judge calculated Julie Chrisley's sentence by holding her accountable for the entire bank fraud scheme. So the appellate panel sent her case back to the lower court for re-sentencing.

Before the Chrisleys became reality television stars, they and a former business partner submitted false documents to banks in the Atlanta area to obtain fraudulent loans, prosecutors said during the trial. They accused the couple of spending lavishly on luxury cars, designer clothes, real estate and travel, and using new fraudulent loans to pay off old ones. Todd Chrisley then filed for bankruptcy, according to prosecutors, walking away from more than $20 million in unpaid loans.

Julie Chrisley was sentenced to seven years in federal prison, and Todd Chrisley got 12 years behind bars. The couple was also ordered to pay $17.8 million in restitution.

Their defense attorneys argued unsuccessfully on appeal that at an IRS officer lied at the trial when he testified about the couple still owing taxes and that prosecutors knowingly failed to correct that false testimony. They also asserted that prosecutors failed to show enough evidence to convict the Chrisleys of tax evasion and conspiracy, or that Julie Chrisley participated in bank fraud.

Tarantino's lawyer argued that the accountant was harmed by being tried with the Chrisleys. His request for a new trial was denied.

The appellate judges found only one error with the case. They ruled that the trial judge at sentencing held Julie Chrisley responsible for the entire bank fraud scheme starting in 2006. The panel ruled neither prosecutors nor the trial judge cited "any specific evidence showing she was involved in 2006."

The panel found sufficient evidence tying her to fraud from multiple years starting in 2007.

“We must vacate Julie’s sentence so the district court can address the narrow issue of what the proper loss amount attributable to Julie is” so that her sentence can be re-calculated, the appeals panel wrote.

Alex Little, an attorney for the Chrisleys, did not immediately respond to an email message seeking comment Friday evening.

Todd Chrisley, 56, is at a minimum security federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida, with a release date in September 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, s being held in a minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, with a release date in August of next year.

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. Reality TV star Julie Chrisley's sentence for bank fraud and tax evasion has been thrown out by federal appeals judges, who have ordered a lower court to redo her punishment, Friday, June 21, 2024.(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. Reality TV star Julie Chrisley's sentence for bank fraud and tax evasion has been thrown out by federal appeals judges, who have ordered a lower court to redo her punishment, Friday, June 21, 2024.(Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A newly posted video of Miss Kansas calling out her domestic violence abuser from the stage the night she was crowned is whipping up a maelstrom of support on social media.

Alexis Smith, who works overnight shifts as a cardiothoracic intensive care nurse in Wichita, was crowned Miss Kansas on June 8, but posted the video of her on-stage comments just this past week on the platform now known as X. Her comments are resonating with thousands in part because she called out her own abuser from the stage while she said the perpetrator was sitting in the audience.

The video Smith posted July 16 has been viewed more than 60,000 times and generated a rash of news stories.

“My vision as the next Miss Kansas is to eliminate unhealthy and abusive relationships,” Smith said during the interview portion of the pageant last month. “Matter of fact, some of you in this audience saw me very emotional because my abuser is here today. But that’s not going to stop me from being on this Miss Kansas stage and from representing as the next Miss Kansas.”

Smith just recently started her reign and began raising concerns about the issue in interviews and social media posts. Her bold pageant statement against domestic abuse and her courage to speak out is being praised online by dozens of people as her video gets shared again and again.

The beauty queen cares deeply about domestic violence issues because not only was she a victim, but so were many of the other women in her family, she has said.

“My family, every single woman in my family, was impacted by domestic violence,” she said in an interview with Wichita television station KSN. “At the age of 14, I got in my first relationship, but it was also an abusive relationship that I was in until about 2018, 2019. It’s something that I’m still experiencing and dealing with today.”

Smith said she even moved to Texas for a couple years after she escaped the relationship. She returned to Wichita to study nursing at Newman University.

This photo provided by Miss America shows Alexis Smith who was crowned Miss Kansas on June 8, 2024, at the ceremony held in Pratt, Kan. Smith works overnight shifts as a cardiothoracic intensive care nurse in Wichita. (Miss America via AP)

This photo provided by Miss America shows Alexis Smith who was crowned Miss Kansas on June 8, 2024, at the ceremony held in Pratt, Kan. Smith works overnight shifts as a cardiothoracic intensive care nurse in Wichita. (Miss America via AP)

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