A federal appeals panel has dismissed former Morgan County Judge-Executive Tim Conley’s challenge to his guilty plea and sentence in a corruption case.
Conley pleaded guilty in August 2014 to mail fraud in connection with a kickback scheme, but later asked the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to set aside his plea and prison sentence of seven years and three months.
Conley’s attorney, Jerry Anderson, argued in the appeal that Conley had not fully understood the elements of the crime on which he admitted guilt.
The appeal also contended that federal prosecutors broke their plea agreement with Conley by seeking a sentence of more than 11 years, much longer than the maximum calculated under advisory sentencing guidelines.
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Prosecutors said Conley deserved the longer sentence because his illegal conduct was especially egregious.
According to court records, Conley arranged a scheme in which he privately opened bids on county bridge-construction projects and changed the offers so that a contractor named Kenneth Gambill would win the jobs.
Conley then extorted kickbacks from Gambill. Conley received at least $130,000 in kickbacks from 2009 through August 2013, according to court records.
Prosecutors sought dismissal of Conley’s appeal, arguing he waived his right to attack the guilty plea and sentence.
A three-judge appeals panel granted that request June 2.
The judges said a prosecutor read the elements of the charge against Conley in “readily understandable words” during his plea hearing. Conley then acknowledged the facts against him and that the government could prove he committed mail fraud, the decision said.
The appeals judges also said the plea deal did not bar the government from seeking the longer sentence for Conley.
Anderson said Saturday that he will consider whether to ask the full appeals court to review the ruling.
Anderson also said he will analyze whether there have been differing rulings on similar issues from regional appeals courts around the country. If so, that could justify an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I thought we had a good appeal,” Anderson said.
Conley is serving his sentence at a prison in West Virginia. He is scheduled for release in 2021.