Former State Senator asks court for lesser sentence due to COVID-19 concerns

Attorney for Wesley Bishop says the former state senator is at high-risk for COVID-19 and primary caregiver to his parents
Zurik: A look inside our Wesley Bishop investigation
Zurik: A look inside our Wesley Bishop investigation
Updated: Jul. 1, 2020 at 11:59 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A former state senator awaiting sentencing on a charge of making false statements to a federal agency is asking a federal judge for a lighter sentence due to COVID-19 concerns.

Wesley Bishop, a now-former state senator and associate vice chancellor at Southern University at New Orleans, entered a guilty plea in January to making false statements to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In paperwork filed Tuesday, Bishop’s attorney, Harry Rosenberg who used to serve as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, said his client is in a high-risk group if he were to contract COVID-19. In the filing, it said Bishop is in the high-risk category if exposed to COVID-19 because of his race and he is “a Type II diabetic and is insulin-dependent.”

“A sentence of confinement, however brief, poses a grave danger to his life,” Rosenberg stated in the filing. The request also states Bishop is the primary caregiver for his parents who are in their 80′s.

Read more about the investigation into Bishop’s rental property.

The charge stems from Bishop’s rental property in New Orleans East which was part of HUD’s Small Rental Property Program. The program gave Bishop a $188,000 loan in the Summer of 2012 on the promise that it would be offered to low-income tenants at reduced rates, but investigators found people were not living in the units, as Bishop claimed.

Prosecutors said Bishop claimed certain people were tenants at his rental property in New Orleans, when in fact they were not living at the property. FOX 8 investigated and found three out of the four units at Bishop’s property never had a water meter on the location while Bishop claimed tenants were living in the units. State investigators also conducted a compliance inspection on the property and found no evidence of people living in the units.

Bishop’s attorney said his client has no prior criminal history and is not a threat to himself or the community. Rosenberg pointed to the former state senator’s service to the community and SUNO in requesting the judge in the case to sentence Bishop to a term of probation instead of confinement.

The judge will decide on sentencing at a virtual sentencing hearing scheduled to take place on July 14, 2020.

Separate from the criminal charge in this case, Bishop had also been the focus of several FOX 8 Investigations by Lee Zurik that found Bishop took sick leave from SUNO while getting paid to work at the state legislature.

Our investigation found Bishop used 122 sick days at SUNO, while he worked in Baton Rouge, adding to nearly $40,000 of money he may have improperly received. Following the FOX 8 Investigation, Bishop cut taxpayers a $20,000 check to SUNO.

Bishop was first elected to the Louisiana State Senate in October 2015 and was elected in the Louisiana House of Representatives in 2011. He announced in 2019 he will not seek re-election to his seat in the Louisiana State Senate.

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