Whittemore seeks to block his surrender to prison

Attorneys for convicted former power broker Harvey Whittemore asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday to block a judge’s decision ordering him to surrender to federal prison authorities on Aug. 6.

At federal prosecutors’ urging, Senior U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks in June ordered Whittemore to start serving a two-year prison term next month for breaking campaign contributions laws.

But attorneys Dominic Gentile and Vincent Savarese said in their court papers Friday that Whittemore deserves to remain free while he appeals his conviction.

The filing of the court papers with the 9th Circuit automatically stays Whittemore’s Aug. 6 surrender until the appeals panel issues a decision, the lawyers wrote.

“This case presents novel questions that have not been resolved by this or any other appellate court,” Gentile and Savarese wrote. “Given the relative dearth of jurisprudence, the testimonial evidence in Mr. Whittemore’s case and the complex issues involved, Mr. Whittemore’s appeal is both hefty and meritorious.”

A Reno jury last year found Whittemore guilty of unlawfully funneling more than $133,000 in contributions to the campaign of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Reid wasn’t accused of wrongdoing in the case.

Hicks ruled in June that there was no longer any reason to allow Whittemore to remain free.

Gentile and Savarese had earlier persuaded Hicks to keep him out of prison on appeal on grounds the U.S. Supreme Court was considering a case that might undermine the validity of his convictions. But the high court’s eventual ruling this year did not have that kind of impact on Whittemore’s case.

Whittemore, 61, an attorney and onetime influential lobbyist, was convicted of giving money to 29 family members and employees of his former company, Wingfield Nevada Group, and then using them as “conduits” for contributions to Reid’s 2007 re-election committee to skirt federal campaign laws.

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter: @JGermanRJ.