Trial attorney Pierce O’Donnell will serve the remaining three months of his prison sentence at his Santa Barbara, Calif., home under an agreement with federal prosecutors.
O’Donnell, who spent the first of four months of his supervised release at a halfway house in Hollywood, Calif., following 60 days in federal prison, was let go early on August 14 to undergo hip replacement surgery. Since then, O’Donnell claims that he has suffered from medical complications that have rendered him incapable of returning to the halfway house.
On March 1, U.S. District James Otero, citing an agreement between the parties, ordered that O’Donnell serve 101 days in home confinement. He also ordered him pay the $12 daily cost of electronic monitoring.
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, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment.
The agreement represents a remarkable turn of events in a case in which Otero rejected O’Donnell’s original plea agreement, which required that he serve six months in prison, as too harsh. Also, prosecutors, who reached a second deal with O’Donnell that reduced his prison term, insisted that he serve four months of his one year of supervised release at a halfway house.
At the time of his release from the halfway house, assistant U.S. attorney Dennis Mitchell insisted that O’Donnell return following surgery. "It would be a miscarriage of justice if defendant were to succeed in having that portion of his sentence eliminated," he wrote.
O’Donnell, of O’Donnell & Associates in Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to reimbursing employees who in 2003 made $26,000 in donations to the failed presidential campaign of former U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-N.C.). He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors to avoid going to trial on two felonies under Section 441f of the Federal Election Campaign Act. A conviction on those charges would have led to automatic suspension of his license.
Otero rejected his original plea deal in August 2011 but approved the revised agreement in March 2012.
O’Donnell was released on July 3 from a minimum-security prison in Lompoc, Calif. He reported to the Vinewood Residential Re-entry Center on July 16.
Following surgery, Friedman told Otero that his client’s physical condition had deteriorated. O’Donnell, he wrote, needed four more months of therapy before he could return to the halfway house since a hematoma had developed on his right hip, slowing his recovery and increasing his risk of infection. The hematoma did not go away until December, after which O’Donnell had suffered four falls. His doctor and physical therapist have recommended that he undergo another six months of treatment and rehabilitation.
As a result, Freidman wrote, O’Donnell requested that he not return to the halfway house, which had low and hard bunk beds and stairs that would exacerbate his condition.
In a February 8 stipulation, Mitchell told Otero that O’Donnell’s probation officer was investigating whether an alternative halfway house could accommodate his condition. By February 25, the probation officer had "no luck" in finding such a facility, according to an order by Otero. During a hearing the same day, prosecutors had continued to insist that O’Donnell go to a halfway house.
Otero’s latest order approved the new agreement, which also calls for 500 hours of community service to be completed within the next 16 months. That provision mimics his plea deal, which required that he perform 200 hours of community service during his supervised release, followed by another 300 hours of community service in the next 16 months.
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