Former Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Sentenced to 22 Months in Prison Over Wire Fraud

On Wednesday, a former Louisiana state senator and chair of the state’s Democratic Party was sentenced to 22 months in prison after pleading guilty to federal wire fraud. 

In April 2022, Karen Carter Peterson made headlines when she resigned from the Louisiana state Senate after a 22-year career, citing poor mental health and her struggles with a gambling addiction.

Several months later, a federal probe claimed that Peterson had stolen campaign funds to gamble with, which the 53-year-old would admit to, confessing in August that she stole over $140,000 from her 2019 reelection campaign and the Louisiana Democratic party’s funding to fuel her addiction.

Peterson had served for 22 years in the Louisiana Legislature, and had chaired the state’s Democratic party from 2012-2020. Her lawyers pushed for U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance to keep her out of prison due to a “diminished mental capacity,” on which they had also blamed her gambling problem, NOLA News reported.

The lifelong Democrat’s counsel argued that she should be let off with probation or house arrest charges. However, Louisiana prosecutors refused, arguing that, despite the prominent Democrat’s acknowledgment and confession of her wrongdoing “after learning of the well-advanced federal investigation, while commendable, do not offset her wrongdoing completely.”

The court slammed Peterson for her “betrayal of the public trust and exploitation of the awesome power she wielded as a candidate for public office and leader of a major political party to seek personal pecuniary gain.”

Peterson allegedly had six accomplices that she worked with to steal campaign money. They have yet to be charged or identified publicly. Peterson’s sentence will begin March 6.