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Ravenell sentencing for money laundering rescheduled — again

Kenneth W. Ravenell. (The Daily Record/File photo)

After two postponements, the sentencing hearing for Baltimore defense lawyer Kenneth W. Ravenell has been rescheduled for June 22.

Ravenell faces the possibility of a lengthy prison term at his sentencing for money laundering. Federal prosecutors are seeking eight years in prison for Ravenell, though his lawyers have asked for a term of probation with no jail time.

A jury in December found Ravenell guilty of a single count of money laundering related to claims that he “washed” nearly $2 million for a former criminal defense client who was running a major marijuana trafficking organization.

The sentencing hearing will also focus on the government’s forfeiture request in the case. Prosecutors have asked for a forfeiture judgment of $1.8 million, or the total amount that Ravenell was accused of laundering through his law firm at the time, Murphy, Falcon & Murphy.

At the trial, prosecutors alleged that Ravenell knew he was receiving drug money from his former client, Richard Byrd, and funneled it through law firm accounts so that it would appear legitimate. The government also claimed that Ravenell offered guidance to Byrd’s drug organization, including advice on how to avoid law enforcement.

Jurors found Ravenell not guilty of most charges, including narcotics and racketeering conspiracy, at the conclusion of the three-week trial.

Ravenell’s lawyers have argued the split verdict means jurors did not believe Byrd, who testified against Ravenell in hopes of receiving a reduction in his 26-year federal prison sentence. Byrd was freed from prison in February, federal records show.

The defense claims that instead, the jury found Ravenell guilty of laundering a much smaller amount of money, about $55,000, by knowingly accepting drug proceeds from an associate of Byrd’s in exchange for criminal defense work.

That means that Ravenell should not be required to forfeit the $1.8 million that went through the Murphy firm, according to his lawyers.

“Here, the money allegedly subject to forfeiture was not paid to Mr. Ravenell but rather to the Murphy Firm, and, with respect to funds paid the firm for legal fees, Mr. Ravenell was entitled to only a very small percentage of said fees, generally 10%,” the defense team wrote in a recent filing.

The government disagreed: “One need not directly possess or control the funds at issue in order to conduct a money laundering transaction with them; constructive possession and control can sustain a money laundering conviction,” prosecutors wrote in response.

Ravenell also sought a new trial based in part on claims that he should not have been convicted of money laundering under a “safe harbor” provision that protects lawyers who accept illicit funds for criminal defense work. Senior U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady rejected that request last month, setting the stage for the June 22 sentencing.