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October 22, 2014

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Ex-lobbyist Whittemore aims to stay out of prison amid appeal

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Tim Dunn/Reno Gazette-Journal

Defense attorney John Arrascada, left, with Harvey Whittemore at his side talks to the media after Whittemore’s arraignment Thursday, June 7, 2012, in Reno.

Lawyers for former Nevada developer and political power broker Harvey Whittemore are asking a federal appeals court to allow him to stay out of prison while he appeals his campaign finance conviction.

U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks of Reno has ordered Whittemore to surrender to a federal prison on Aug. 6 to begin serving his two-year sentence for making illegal contributions to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Whittemore's lawyers said in a motion filed late Thursday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that he should be allowed to remain free on bail while his appeal is considered, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

He should only be ordered to prison if he poses a danger to the community or is likely to flee, they wrote, and the district court found neither was the case.

The U.S. attorney's office for Nevada did not file an immediate response.

Whittemore was convicted a year ago of violating campaign-spending laws by using family and employees of his billion-dollar real estate company to funnel more than $130,000 to Reid's re-election committee in 2007. Reid, who later donated the contributions to charity, has not been accused of wrongdoing in the case.

Whittemore lawyer Justin Bustos said the appeal raises "numerous substantial questions of law and fact," and focuses on Whittemore's indictment on charges he made contributions "in the name of another person."

Whittemore contends he never made illegal "conduit" contributions, Bustos said.

"Instead, as he had often done in the past, he gave legal unconditional gifts to friends, family members and colleagues," Bustos wrote. "Contemporaneously, he exercised his First Amendment rights to free speech and association by requesting others, including some gift recipients, to make a voluntary campaign contribution to Sen. Harry Reid."

Last week, the Gazette-Journal reported that Whittemore, 61, would not be sent to a federal prison in Herlong, California, about 50 miles north of Reno, as he had hoped. His health problems require he stay at a federal prison with higher levels of health care.

Whittemore suffers from diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, high blood pressure and heart disease, according to documents filed by his attorneys last September.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has declined to disclose the medium-security prison where he will serve his sentence, citing security reasons.

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