Can a Congressman serve from behind bars?

Michael Grimm, member of the United States House of Representatives.

Michael Grimm, member of the United States House of Representatives who pleaded guilty to a count of felony tax fraud.

Rep. Michael Grimm pleaded guilty to a count of felony tax fraud in Brooklyn federal court on Tuesday, but said that he had no plans to resign from the seat to which he was re-elected in November.

The Republican congressman was indicted in April on 20 counts of misconduct in connection with a Manhattan health food restaurant he co-owned before he became a member of Congress.

Grimm specifically plead guilty to aiding the preparation of a false tax return in connection with the restaurant. Trial had been scheduled for February.

Grimm made “off the books” payments to employees and under-reported gross receipts by nearly $1 million nearly $1 million to the IRS and New York state tax collectors from from a New York restaurant he owned.

A former FBI agent who served as a U.S. Marine, Grimm, 44, he campaigned as a law-and-order corruption fighter when he was first elected to Congress in 2010.

In a district that includes all of Staten Island and parts of neighboring Brooklyn, Grimm won re-election by a wide margin in November despite his federal indictment.

Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Grimm on June 8th to 24 to 36 months of jail time. His defense lawyers asked for 12 – 18 months.

It’s unlikely that Grimm will serve out his third term that starts in January even though there is nothing in the Constitution or House Rules against felons serving in Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner hasn’t publicly weighed in on whether Grimm should step down, but he has made it clear during his time in leadership that he has little patience for those members admitting to any wrongdoing.

“We won’t have any announcements until the Speaker discusses the matter with Mr. Grimm,” said Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel.

Calls for Grimm to resign are sure to mount and GOP leaders would prefer not to deal with questions about a felon remaining in the Republican conference when they open up the new session in 2015.

Following the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, Grimm voiced support for “security-based situational awareness training”, including how to spot suspicious people, when to run for an exit, and how to keep guards at close range.

Grimm also said congressmen should consider carrying firearms. House Leader John Boehner called his suggestions an “excellent idea.”


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