Judge denies Maddox motion for lower sentence, Burnette request to see Taylor Swift – Tallahassee Democrat

A federal judge denied a motion by former Tallahassee City Commissioner Scott Maddox to reduce his sentence on bribery charges and a separate request by his co-defendant, J.T. Burnette, to travel overseas and see a Taylor Swift concert.
Maddox, the city’s first leadership mayor, and Burnette, a wealthy developer and businessman, were both convicted in a notorious City Hall bribery scheme involving payoffs to vendors and undercover FBI agents.
Burnette, who was found guilty at trial in 2021, got three years in federal prison. Maddox and his longtime aide, Paige Carter-Smith, pleaded guilty in 2019 in cooperation deals that saw them testify against Burnette. Maddox got five years; Carter-Smith got two.
The three have since been released from federal minimum-security prison camps, though both Maddox and Burnette are still serving a year of supervised release.
Maddox was released last spring from the federal prison camp in Pensacola and placed on home confinement in Tallahassee. Bureau of Prison records show him officially out of custody as of Friday. 
In early January, Maddox asked for his sentence to be reduced from 60 months to 49 months — which if granted could have shaved several weeks off his time in BOP custody, an expert said.
His federal public defender, Joseph DeBelder, told the court in a filing that Maddox qualified for a retroactive reduction following changes in federal sentencing guidelines. DeBelder said Maddox had no disciplinary infractions while in prison and didn’t pose a threat to the community.
“Additionally, Mr. Maddox has taken advantage of the BOP programming provided to him while incarcerated and has successfully completed many educational courses,” DeBelder wrote. “He has also taught classes to other inmates. Mr. Maddox has been punished and is ready to return as a productive and law-abiding member of society.”
DeBelder also noted that Maddox was sentenced below federal guidelines because of “substantial assistance” he gave to federal prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, who presided over the corruption case, including Burnette’s trial, denied the motion in a Jan. 9 order. He wrote that “factors other than just the guideline range were predominant” in the sentence he imposed.
“The 60-month sentence is still sufficient but not greater than necessary to comply with (federal) sentencing purposes,” Hinkle wrote. “As a matter of discretion, the sentence will not be reduced.”
Sam Mangel, a former convict who works with white collar criminals and their families, said that after the change in guidelines, courts directed federal public defenders to reach out to eligible inmates to see whether they wanted to pursue a reduction.
“It was a blanket process,” Mangel said.
Burnette, who was released from BOP custody in October, wrote Hinkle on Jan. 18 asking for his approval to travel internationally “for work and vacation” with his family. Under terms of his supervised release, Burnette can’t leave the Northern District of Florida without prior approval from the court.
“I currently have a few projects that I’m working on with international partners in Europe and China,” Burnette wrote. “It would be beneficial to meet with them in person on the design and examine the final product before shipment.”
He also said he and his family hoped to catch a performance by Swift, the pop star whose globe-spanning “Eras Tour” has stops later this year in Europe and Southeast Asia.
“My family would also like to travel and has tentative plans to attend a Taylor Swift concert abroad in the fall and would like to take an international trip over the summer,” he wrote.
Burnette, who served his prison time at a federal camp in Montgomery, Alabama, said he consulted with his probation officer, who didn’t object to the request.
“Thank you for your time and consideration,” Burnette wrote. “I understand the gravity of this request, and I am committed to upholding the law and responsibilities that come with such approval.”
Hinkle said no.
In a Jan. 25 order, he wrote that granting the travel request would be inconsistent with federal sentencing purposes, “including just punishment and general deterrence.”
“The term of supervised release is a material part of the sentence,” Hinkle wrote. “Offenders on supervised release ordinarily are not allowed to travel internationally except briefly in exceptional circumstances. Mr. Burnette has not presented exceptional circumstances.”
Contact Jeff Burlew at [email protected] or 850-599-2180.

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