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Children of reality TV’s Chrisleys hope court hearing is step toward bringing convicted parents home

ATLANTA — Lawyers for reality TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley, who are in prison after being convicted on federal charges of bank fraud and tax evasion, on Friday challenged aspects of their convictions and sentences in a federal appeals court.

The Chrisleys rose to fame with their show “Chrisley Knows Best,” which chronicled the exploits of their tight-knit family. But prosecutors said they engaged in an extensive bank fraud scheme and hid their earnings from tax authorities while showcasing their extravagant lifestyle.

Peter Tarantino, an accountant they hired, also is serving time in prison. He wants his conviction thrown out and to be granted a new trial.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Friday heard arguments from lawyers for the three.

Two of the Chrisleys’ children, Savannah and Chase, were joined by more than a dozen supporters in the gallery of the courtroom. Savannah Chrisley spoke to reporters after the hearing, saying she talked to her parents Thursday night and that they are “doing as best as they can” and hope that Friday’s hearing is a step toward getting them home.

“We have all come together and we are closer than ever,” she said of her family.

The Chrisleys initially were charged in August 2019. In June 2022, a jury found them guilty of conspiring to defraud community banks out of more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. They also were found guilty of tax evasion and conspiring to defraud the IRS, and Julie Chrisley was convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

Todd Chrisley, 56, is at a minimum security federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida, with a release date in October 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, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the United States and willfully filing false tax returns. He is being held in a minimum security federal prison camp in Montgomery, Alabama, with a release date in September of next year.

Prosecutors have said the Chrisleys walked away from their responsibility to repay loans when Todd Chrisley declared bankruptcy. While in bankruptcy, they started their reality show and “flaunted their wealth and lifestyle to the American public,” and then hid the millions they made from the show from the IRS, prosecutors have said.

Alex Little, a lawyer for the Chrisleys, argued that an IRS officer lied on the stand about the couple still owing taxes at the time of trial when she knew no taxes were due and that prosecutors knowingly presented and failed to correct that false testimony.

“They relied on information they knew to be incorrect,” Little said.

Prosecutor Annalise Peters rejected that assertion, saying that when the IRS officer testified, she and prosecutors were unaware of some tax payments the Chrisleys had made. But she said the couple did still owe some taxes at the time.

Circuit Judge Robin Rosenbaum, who grilled both sides during the hearing, seemed skeptical of the idea that prosecutors had conspired with an IRS officer to present false information, saying evidence the defense presented in a brief “seemed like pure speculation.”

The Chrisleys’ lawyers also argue that the trial judge was wrong to allow certain evidence without requiring prosecutors to show it wasn’t obtained during an unlawful search. And they argue prosecutors failed to provide enough evidence to convict the Chrisleys of tax evasion and conspiracy, showing only that they used a common entertainment industry practice to receive acting income.

They also argue prosecutors failed to produce any evidence that Julie Chrisley participated in bank fraud. They say the judge erred by ordering restitution and forfeiture of assets.

Todd Chrisley should be acquitted on the tax evasion and conspiracy counts and given a new trial on the remaining counts, his lawyers argue. Alternatively, the appeals court should send the case back to the trial court to hold a hearing on his claims that the IRS officer lied and evidence was improperly admitted.

Julie Chrisley should be acquitted on the five bank fraud charges, her lawyers argue. They also say her sentence on the remaining charges, including $17.2 million in restitution that she and her husband were ordered to pay, should be wiped away and she should be resentenced on those counts.

Prosecutors argue there was sufficient evidence at trial to support the charges and jury verdicts, and that the evidence was properly obtained and admitted. Peters argued that there was also no evidence that the IRS officer’s testimony affected the jury’s verdict.

Even if the Chrisleys eventually paid what they owed, “later actions do not nullify the crime,” Peters said.

Don Samuel, a lawyer for Tarantino, argued that his client was harmed by being tried with the Chrisleys and he urged the court to reverse Tarantino’s conviction and return his case to the lower court for a new trial.

While Tarantino did certain things that ended up facilitating the Chrisleys’ fraudulent conduct, there was no evidence he did anything intentionally to facilitate that conduct, Samuel said. The scope of the charges against the Chrisleys “dwarfed the evidence” against Tarantino and prejudiced the jury against him, Samuel said.

Peters said there was substantial evidence demonstrating Tarantino’s personal involvement and he can’t demonstrate actual, compelling evidence that he was harmed by being tried along with the Chrisleys.


Associated Press writer Kenya Hunter contributed to this report.

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