Facing 8 to 10 years in prison, Fyre Festival’s 26-year-old founder Billy McFarland is asking for leniency from the judge overseeing his sentencing for two counts of wire fraud related to the disastrous Fyre Festival. McFarland’s lawyer Nicholas Gravante says his client fully intends to repay the $26 million he took from investors to stage the Bahamian festival which was to feature acts like Major Lazer and Blink 182, and is asking McFarland to be sentenced to six months of house arrest and probation. The memo also suggests McFarland lost $2 million of his own money on the 2017 Fyre Fest, which played out over social media with attendees arriving on Grand Exuma to find inadequate conditions, temporary tents that had been sold as luxury villas and cheese sandwiches where five-star meals had been promised.
“Billy undoubtedly made a series of bad decisions during a period in time when he was trying to put together an extremely ambitious event—a music festival on a largely empty Bahamian island, where no large-scale event had ever been held before,” Gravante wrote in the sentencing document. “Billy’s boundless enthusiasm, coupled with his prior successes, led him to believe that he would be able to make the festival work, which would allow him to repay investors,” adding, “As his sister explained, ‘Billy has always been a big dreamer, and it has been heartbreaking to see him leap too big and to fall too short.’”
Blaming ADHD, blind ambition and an overriding desire to help people. McFarland’s lawyer says Billy fully cooperated with the investigation and ultimately pled guilty to two counts of fraud. Sentencing guidelines for a crime involving $27 million typically mean a sentence of 97-121 months, which Gravante described as “an absurdity” and said the federal Probation Department is also calling for a lighter sentence.
“A fair balancing of these factors—including Billy’s contributions to his community, his lack of personal gain, the comparable severity of his crime as measured against sentences given for similar conduct, and his full acceptance of responsibility,” Gravante writes, “all weigh in favor of a sentence that is substantially below the Guidelines” and is “served in home confinement.”
62 individuals wrote letters of support to Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in the Southern District of New York. Nine came from family members including his mom Irene McFarland, dad Steve McFarland and his younger sister Eleni. Another 53 came from friends including Jason L. Baptiste who helped McFarland launch Magnises, former NFL cornerback Jason Bell and ‘Cash Money Click’ and former Ja Rule partner Jody Mack.
“Someone who raises everyone up, is very smart, and takes it all on his shoulders while spreading praise – how can the system not give this guy his freedom?” writes Mack in an undated letter to Buchwald. “There should be other consequences beyond a lock and key.”