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4th Circuit to hear Ravenell appeal before January argument session

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

A federal appellate court has scheduled an unusual early argument session to hear Baltimore defense lawyer Kenneth W. Ravenell’s appeal of his money laundering conviction and federal prison sentence.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals initially scheduled oral argument in Ravenell’s appeal for the session that will run from Jan. 24-27. But after a government lawyer reported a scheduling conflict, the court instead scheduled a remote argument for the week of  Jan. 9, which is not during the January term.

Ravenell faces a federal prison sentence of four years and nine months. He is set to report to federal prison on Saturday, according to court records.

It is unclear, however, whether he will actually begin serving his prison term as scheduled. He avoided an earlier report date in October for reasons that remain under seal in federal court. A flurry of sealed documents on the court docket this month suggest Ravenell may once again be trying to postpone his report date.

His lawyer, Peter White, declined to comment. In a letter submitted to the 4th Circuit, White asked the court to hear Ravenell’s appeal in January despite a government lawyer’s scheduling conflict during the week of Jan. 24.

“Should oral argument be postponed, Mr. Ravenell’s appeal will not be heard until, at the earliest, the March 2023 session,” White wrote. “Should he prevail on appeal, Mr. Ravenell would be incarcerated longer than necessary.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise told the court he would not be available the week of Jan. 24 because he will be trying another case. After the appeals court suggested he could argue Ravenell’s appeal on Jan. 27, the final day of its argument session, Wise said his trial might not conclude by then and asked to continue the case until March.

“The United States would be prejudiced if this Court scheduled oral argument for January 27, 2023,” Wise wrote. “For these reasons, the United States respectfully requests that this case be tentatively calendared for the Court’s next available sitting.”

A federal jury convicted Ravenell, 63, of one count of money laundering at a three-week trial in December 2021. Prosecutors alleged that Ravenell helped launder nearly $2 million in drug money on behalf of a former criminal defense client who ran a marijuana trafficking organization.

Ravenell has maintained his innocence and asked the 4th Circuit to grant him bail while his appeal is pending. The court declined and refused to hear the request en banc, though several judges dissented.

Ravenell’s lawyers have argued the money he was convicted of laundering was exempt from federal money laundering law because it was payment for criminal defense services.

His defense team has also argued that the criminal offense for which Ravenell was convicted took place outside the five-year statute of limitations and that jurors should have been instructed on the timing issue before deliberating.