Ex-Subway pitchman Jared Fogle's close friend cleared of porn conviction

Judge vacates Russell Taylor's conviction, setting stage for possible new trial on 10 remaining felony charges

Disgraced former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle

INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge has overturned the child pornography conviction of an associate of disgraced former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle who had provided evidence that led to a criminal case against Fogle.

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U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ruled that the defense attorney for Russell Taylor, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2015 for producing pornography, was ineffective because attorney Brad Banks failed to challenge three charges not supported by the legal facts of the case against Taylor.

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Pratt found that Banks did not inform Taylor that three of the sexual exploitation charges he was admitting to involved hidden-camera images of young, male relatives that did not involve the "sexually explicit conduct" necessary for the criminal charges, The Indianapolis Star reported.

In her 32-page ruling issued Friday, Pratt found that Banks' error poisoned Taylor’s entire the guilty plea and sentencing. She vacated Taylor's conviction, setting the stage for a possible new trial on 10 remaining felony charges. Her ruling said that federal prosecutors and attorneys for Taylor agreed that was the “proper relief.”

Brandon Sample, one of Taylor's appellate attorneys, told the newspaper that the ruling "vindicates Mr. Taylor's longstanding assertion that his plea was the product of ineffective assistance of counsel."

Steven Whitaker, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler, said Monday that Taylor remained in federal custody and declined further comment.

An email seeking comment from Banks was sent Monday to his Indianapolis law office by The Associated Press. A woman who answered the phone at that office said Banks “will have no comment at this time."

Taylor was sentenced in December 2015 after he had pleaded guilty to 12 counts of child exploitation and one count of distribution of child pornography. He admitted using cameras hidden in his homes to produce pornography of the children, some as young as 9 years old.

Taylor was executive director of the Jared Foundation, a nonprofit that Fogle started to raise awareness and money to fight childhood obesity. Under his guilty plea he provided evidence that led to the criminal case against Fogle, his one-time boss and close friend.

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Fogle was sentenced to 15 years in prison in November 2015 for trading in child pornography and paying for sex with underage girls. He had pleaded guilty to distributing and receiving child pornography and traveling out of state to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor.

Fogle became a Subway pitchman after shedding more than 200 pounds (90.7 kilograms) as a college student, in part by eating the chain’s sandwiches. Subway ended its relationship with Fogle after authorities raided his suburban Indianapolis home in July 2015.

Taylor was being held at a federal prison in Yazoo City, Mississippi; Fogle was being held at a federal prison in Littleton, Colorado, Bureau of Prison records show.