Ex-Tennessee State Senator Receives 21-Month Sentence for Breaching Campaign Finance Regulations


COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. – The former Germantown State Senator, Brian Kelsey, has been handed a 21-month prison sentence for transgressing campaign finance regulations, as reported by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee.

This case pertained to an unsuccessful congressional campaign in 2016. During his pursuit of a congressional seat, Kelsey concurrently represented sections of Cordova, East Memphis, and Germantown in the Tennessee State Senate.

Indicted in 2021, court records assert that Kelsey, along with a co-conspirator, illicitly obscured the transfer of $66,000 from Kelsey’s state Senate campaign fund and $25,000 from a non-profit organization focused on legal justice matters to a national entity. The purpose of this transfer was to finance advertisements advocating support for Kelsey’s congressional campaign.

Initially pleading not guilty and branding the case as a “witch hunt”, the former state senator subsequently reversed course and entered a guilty plea.

Facing legal action, Kelsey, who secured election to the Tennessee General Assembly in 2004 followed by a tenure in the Tennessee State Senate starting in 2009, openly acknowledged in court his involvement in a conspiracy to secretly and unlawfully divert funds from his own Tennessee State Senate campaign fund to his sanctioned federal campaign fund.

Nevertheless, the former state senator attempted to retract his admission of guilt, asserting that his “limited familiarity with the criminal justice system” played a role in the plea agreement. Kelsey further conveyed that he entered the plea with an “uncertain heart and bewildered mind,” which stemmed from personal events such as the unexpected passing of his father and the recent birth of his twin sons.

His plea for reconsideration was dismissed. In response to Kelsey’s endeavor to retract his admission of guilt, prosecutors countered his assertion of being unfamiliar with the legal system by highlighting that the former state senator had practiced law and served as a member of the Tennessee General Assembly for a span of 18 years.

During his sentencing on August 11, 2023, Kelsey addressed the court, expressing remorse, “I genuinely apologize for my actions that have led me to this point today. Despite recognizing the potential consequences, I proceeded anyway and, in doing so, violated the law.”

Prosecutors are skeptical of the former Senator Kelsey’s bid to reverse his guilty plea Prosecutors are skeptical of the former Senator Kelsey’s bid to reverse his guilty plea Prosecutors remain unconvinced by former State Senator Brian Kelsey’s appeal to retract his admission of guilt in relation to the charges of campaign finance impropriety.

As part of his sentencing, Kelsey will also be subjected to a three-year probationary period under supervised release and will be required to pay a $200 fine.


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