Miss. mom's bid to delay prison term fails

By The Associated Press

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A federal judge has denied a Rankin County mother’s request to delay reporting to prison so she can make arrangements for her two teenagers.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (http://on.thec-l.com/tvot2f ) that U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate denied Anita McLemore’s request, even though federal prosecutors did not object to her bid to extend her reporting date from Jan. 3 to March 5 to begin serving three years for making a false claim.

McLemore understood that she must serve her sentence and that she will be “separated from her children for a substantial period of time,” her attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Omodare Jupiter, said in court papers. She was requesting “the additional time to prepare them for this transition,” Jupiter said.

Wingate’s sentencing of McLemore, 47, in November has drawn attention because he bypassed sentencing guidelines that suggested up to eight months in prison and would have made her eligible for probation. Instead, he sentenced her under a federal statute that carries a maximum five years in prison.

Wingate also fined McLemore $250 and placed her on three years of supervised release.

Jupiter has said the sentence was excessive, and filed a notice of appeal on Nov. 23.

“The defendant’s criminal record is simply abominable,” Wingate said at sentencing. “She has been the beneficiary of government generosity in state court.”

Wingate said records show McLemore has at least four felony drug convictions and one misdemeanor conviction dating to 1996. She made false statements in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010, according to an indictment.

McLemore pleaded guilty in July to one count of submitting a false claim to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Temporary Assistance and Food Stamps program. Authorities said she lied about not being convicted of a felony.

McLemore received $4,367 in benefits. She has paid the money back.

Jupiter said McLemore regrets her actions and took responsibility by pleading guilty.

Federal prosecutors said they stood by their plea agreement with McLemore to recommend a sentence in the lower range of the guidelines.

McLemore must serve her time out of state because there are no federal prisons that house women in Mississippi.

“Assuming that the children will be allowed to visit their mother while she is incarcerated, her family will bear considerable expense traveling to the nearest facility for visitation,” Jupiter said in court papers. “In preparation for service of her sentence, Ms. McLemore is working as many hours as possible to accommodate the anticipated costs for travel. The nearest facility is more than six hours away.”

Wingate sentenced McLemore around the same time he sentenced six people in a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme. They received less time than McLemore, but they also had no prior convictions.