NEW ORLEANS — When Grammy-winning trumpeter Irvin Mayfield pled guilty to stealing $1.3 million in public library donations, he took a plea deal that limited his sentence to five years in prison.
At his sentencing in November 2021, U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey said federal guidelines called for more than five years, but cut Mayfield and co-defendant Ronald Markham’s prison terms to 18 months, starting Jan. 12, 2022. U.S. Bureau of Prison records showed Mayfield and Markham were both scheduled to be released in March 2023.
But Mayfield spent less than eight months in prison in Pensacola, transferring to a halfway house in New Orleans in August 2022, according to prison records. Social media posts indicated he played invitation-only music shows from the halfway house.
And last week, his incarceration was over less than a year into the 18-month sentence.
Meanwhile, his co-conspirator and business partner Markham, who was sentenced to the same 18 months and started his prison term the same day, remains in a halfway house with a release date still set for March 22, according to federal prison records.
Following an exclusive WWL-TV investigation in 2015 and 2016, a federal grand jury indicted Mayfield and Markham in December 2017, accusing them of sending $1.3 million from the New Orleans Public Library Foundation, where they each served as president, to their jazz orchestra to pay their six-figure salaries, fund Mayfield’s lavish trips, buy him a gold-plated trumpet and finance a show at Carnegie Hall.
They both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud. At the sentencing hearing in November 2021, Mayfield’s lawyer, Federal Public Defender Claude Kelly, argued his client shouldn’t have to go to prison at all. Kelly said Mayfield had suffered enough because of all the stories by WWL-TV, calling this reporter “obsessed.”
“The punishment began with the first Hammer article (May 5, 2015). He can regain some after today, but the scars are permanent," Kelly said.
“The man stole $1.3 million from a wonderful foundation,” Judge Zainey shot back. “Say what you want to say, Mr. Hammer didn’t cause the conduct that occurred.”
Asked about Mayfield’s early release and the difference between Mayfield and Markham’s time incarcerated, Bureau of Prisons spokesman Benjamin O’Cone said, “For privacy reasons, we do not share specific information regarding an individual inmate's release method.”
Federal sentences typically require inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence, but O’Cone noted that a 2018 law also allowed inmates to earn up to 54 days of “good time credit” for each year of their sentence. That would have allowed Mayfield and Markham to cut their sentences by 81 days, or nearly three months.
Mayfield’s release date was moved up more than 70 days.