MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Former Tennessee state Sen. Brian Kelsey was sentenced Friday to 21 months in federal prison for violation of campaign finance laws.
The sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville said Friday.
Kelsey, a Germantown Republican who represented the suburbs of east Shelby County and a slice of East Memphis, pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to defraud the FEC, and aiding and abetting the acceptance of excessive contributions, in connection with a failed 2016 congressional campaign.
Kelsey initially pleaded not guilty, calling the case a political witch hunt. He later changed his plea, then sought to withdraw his guilty plea. His sentencing was delayed several times.
Henry Leventis, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said Kelsey, who was himself an attorney, ignored advice from political advisers and an attorney.
“These were not isolated errors in judgement,” Leventis said Friday.
Kelsey conspired with others, including Joshua Smith, owner of a members-only social club in Nashville, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Smith was also sentenced Friday to five years of probation, a $250 fine, and 720 hours of community service for aiding and abetting.
Kelsey and co-conspirators were accused of concealing the movement of $91,000. Of that, $66,000 came from Kelsey’s state Senate campaign committee and $25,000 came from a nonprofit corporation that publicly advocated on legal justice issues.
Prosecutors say that money was funneled to a national political organization for the purpose of funding advertisements that urged voters to support Kelsey in the August 2016 primary election.
Kelsey and his co-conspirators also caused the political organization to make $80,000 worth of contributions to Kelsey’s federal campaign committee in the form of coordinated expenditures, prosecutors said.
The FBI Memphis Field Office investigated the case.