Los Angeles attorney Pierce O’Donnell has reached a revised plea deal with federal prosecutors that would require him to serve 60 days in prison but allow him to retain his California bar license.
The deal was the second reached in a campaign finance violations case against the noted trial attorney. On Nov. 14, U.S. District Judge James Otero in Los Angeles rejected the sentencing portion of the original deal, which called for a prison term of six months and a $20,000 fine. He concluded that prison was too harsh a punishment, attributing O’Donnell’s criminal acts to a "lapse of judgment." He also found the fine "woefully insufficient."
During a Jan. 17 hearing, Otero took an impending trial date off his calendar and urged both sides to reach a new agreement or send their case to another judge.
A status hearing was scheduled for March 5.
O’Donnell’s attorney, Frederick Friedman, of counsel in the Los Angeles office of Jones Day, did not return a call for comment. Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles, declined to comment.
"Defendant, and his counsel specifically acknowledge and agree that the agreed-upon sentence is just, fair, and appropriate, and that it takes into account both the seriousness of defendant’s criminal conduct and any and all of defendant’s personal circumstances both prior to and after his commission of the charged offenses," Friedman and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Mitchell wrote in the stipulation.
If Otero rejects the sentence again, both sides would ask that the case be transferred to a magistrate judge, who would determine whether to approve the arrangement. The government reserved the option to pursue the charges against O’Donnell should that judge reject the deal.
O’Donnell would retain his California bar license, given that he would plead guilty to the same two misdemeanor charges at issue in the original agreement. Specifically, O’Donnell would admit that he reimbursed employees of his Los Angeles law firm, now called O’Donnell & Associates, and others who contributed $26,000 in 2003 to the presidential campaign of former U.S. Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).
Prosecutors originally charged him with two felonies under Section 441f of the Federal Election Campaign Act. A conviction on either count could have led to automatic suspension of O’Donnell’s license.
O’Donnell would be placed on supervised release for one year. During that time, he would perform 200 hours of community service, plus another 300 hours in the 16 months following his supervised release period.
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