O’Donnell takes plea deal for illegal contributions

Litigator would serve two months in prison

Famed litigator Pierce O’Donnell has agreed to a new plea deal in which he would be sentenced to two months in prison, 12 months of supervised release and 500 hours of community service for making illegal campaign contributions to John Edwards’ 2004 presidential campaign.

The new plea deal still must be approved by U.S. District Court Judge James Otero, who in November rejected a plea agreement which would have seen O’Donnell serve six months in prison. Otero said that he felt that jail time was unwarranted, but federal prosecutor Dennis Mitchell refused to agree to a sentence without it.

O’Donnell has told friends that he wants to put the case behind him, and that the deal will allow him to retain his license to practice law. He plead guilty to two misdmeanor counts of violating election law, but prosecutors had originally sought a felony conviction, something that would have in all likelihood led to disbarment.

The charges had to do with so-called “conduit campaign” contributions, in which he got 10 employees of his law firm to each contribute $2,000 to the Edwards campaign, for which he would then reimburse them. His new plea agreement also calls for him to pay a fine of $20,000.

If Otero rejects the new deal, O’Donnell and prosecutors are asking that the court transfer the case to a magistrate judge to review the case.

O’Donnell is perhaps most famous in the entertainment community for representing Art Buchwald in his case against Paramount that exposed studio accounting practices.