Baltimore attorney and convicted money launderer Kenneth Ravenell is asking the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to rehear his bail request before he reports to prison Oct. 15.
Ravenell, through his attorney, Peter White, requested an en banc hearing, meaning all 15 appellate judges would review his motion and the government’s response, after a three-judge panel voted 2-1 to deny him bail Aug. 12.
A jury convicted Ravenell of laundering his client’s drug proceeds in December, but acquitted him of racketeering and narcotics charges. U.S. District Court Judge Liam O’Grady sentenced Ravenell to four years, nine months imprisonment in June, saying the case against him was “about as clear a case of money laundering that can be found.”
Petitions for en banc hearings are rarely granted, with the Fourth Circuit granting no more than six in a calendar year since 2003, when it held eight such hearings. Lawyers regularly file requests for the hearings, but do so knowing having it granted is a longshot, said appellate attorney Steve Klepper.
When one of the three judges disagrees with the other, like in Ravenell’s case, it increases the odds the request is granted, but only slightly.
“Even when there is a dissent, an en banc hearing remains a longshot,” said Klepper, who is also editor-in-chief of the Maryland Appellate Blog.
What’s more, Klepper said he’s unaware of a single instance since at least 1995 when the Fourth Circuit granted such a hearing just to deal with a motion for bail.
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White declined an interview request Wednesday, saying he doesn’t comment on pending matters and that the filings speak for themselves.
“While motions for bail pending appeal are rarely considered en banc, Mr. Ravenell is an attorney with an otherwise spotless reputation who was convicted of a single non-violent offense whose professional life will effectively be destroyed the moment he surrenders himself to prison,” White wrote in his filing.
The motion for bail, which would allow Ravenell to be released pending the result of his appeal, is one of several attempts he and his lawyers have made to keep him out of prison. In the weeks before his sentencing, they asked O’Grady, twice, to order a new trial on the grounds the jury was improperly instructed and convicted him on conduct that was barred by the statute of limitations.
O’Grady disagreed both times, saying the jury was properly instructed and whatever error, if any, was harmless and didn’t materially change the outcome of the trial.
Much of the prosecution’s case hinged on the word of Richard Byrd, kingpin of a multistate marijuana operation and nightclub owner, who cooperated with the government in exchange for an early release from prison. Jurors seemed to doubt the legitimacy of Byrd’s testimony, evidenced by the acquittals on the other charges, but prosecutors also tied Ravenell to money laundering for another drug dealer and client: Leonardo Harris.
Ravenell’s legal defense argued unsuccessfully to O’Grady that his conduct with Harris was both time-barred from prosecution and legal under the letter of the law, because using drug proceeds to pay for criminal defense is not prohibited. The defense is arguing the same theories to the Fourth Circuit.
O’Grady, at sentencing, said he did not think it was a sound legal argument and thought it unlikely Ravenell’s conviction will be overturned.