Former state Sen. Oaks files appeal, but under plea deal it won't affect prison sentence

Former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks has filed an appeal in his corruption case — but it won’t affect the 3 ½-year sentence he received this week.

Under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Oaks was given permission to challenge a judge’s ruling on one of the charges he admitted to. The judge has previously said even if the appeal is successful it wouldn’t lead to Oaks serving a shorter sentence.

Oaks pleaded guilty to two different fraud charges, admitting to taking $15,300 in payments from an FBI informant posing as an out-of-town developer. In exchange for the payments, Oaks had agreed to use his political office to help the supposed businessman carry out building projects.

In the waning days of this year’s General Assembly session, the longtime Baltimore Democrat resigned his Senate seat and pleaded guilty to the charges.

At his sentencing Tuesday, Oaks apologized and said he took “full responsibility.”

Typically, people who plead guilty give up almost all of their rights to appeal. But prosecutors agreed that Oaks’ attorneys in the federal public defender’s office could challenge a judge’s ruling that declined to throw out one of the charges against him.

Oaks’ attorneys had argued that his drafting of a bond bill to support a project proposed by the FBI informant didn’t amount to an “official act” that would cause Oaks to violate the law. Judge Richard D. Bennett rejected that claim, but an appeal will allow the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond to consider the issue.

Bennett sentenced Oaks to 42 months in prison. Even if the appeal is ultimately successful, the full sentence would still stand.

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