Avtandil Khurtsidze will soon know again what freedom tastes like.
The embattled Georgian middleweight boxer, who was arrested almost five years ago as part of a sweeping federal sting for his alleged role in the Shulaya Enterprise, a Russian crime syndicate, and eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison on racketeering and conspiracy charges, was resentenced to time served plus one week followed by two years of supervised release in a proceeding held Tuesday at the Southern District Court in New York City.
Khurtsidze, 44, is expected to be released from custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons sometime next week. According to his lawyers, however, there may be certain immigration restrictions that could complicate his release; Khurtsidze does not have a US visa.
In April, Khurtsidze, who was regarded as the chief enforcer for the Brooklyn-based Shulaya Enterprise, won an appeal that saw his original sentence vacated (although the convictions were upheld) after the Second Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Khurtsidze’s national origin had played a role in the trial judge’s sentencing decision.
Khurtsidze’s lawyers have long taken issue with their client’s draconian 10-year sentence, a verdict recommended by the government and that was more than double federal sentencing guidelines (57 months or about 5 years per the Department of Probation). They pointed out that no other defendant – 32 others were indicted – in the Shulaya Enterprise racketeering case received a sentencing over and above their respective guidelines. Moreover, outside of Razhden Shulaya, the eponymous head, or "Thief-in-law," of the criminal outfit who received 45 years behind bars, nobody in the case received a higher sentencing than Khurtsidze.
In all, Khurtsidze has been incarcerated for over four years during which time, according to Bureau of Prisons records, he was a model citizen. Last December, he caught Covid-19 and was subsequently vaccinated in March.
“We are happy with the outcome – a sentence that is commensurate with the underlying offenses and the sentences imposed on the many co-defendants in this case; a sentence that also reflects Avtandil’s commendable adjustment to incarceration over the past four years,” Megan Benett, an attorney for Khurtsidze, told BoxingScene.com in an email.
The decision marks a remarkable turnaround for a fighter who up until his arrest in 2017 seemed to be on the verge of accomplishing great feats inside the ring.
Khurtsidze (33-2, 22 KOs) exploded on the boxing scene seemingly out of nowhere in 2016, when he bludgeoned then highly regarded prospect Antoine Douglas on a ShoBox main event. The following year he followed up with a fifth-round stoppage over Tommy Langford in Leicester, England to earn a shot at the WBO middleweight title held then by Billy Joe Saunders. Both fighters signed on to face each other in London on July 8, 2017.
A month out before the fight, however, after being informed that his visa had been approved, Khurtsidze flew from his homeland of Georgia to New York to continue his training only to be apprehended by federal agents upon his arrival at JFK airport for his involvement with the Shulaya Enterprise.
Initially, the government offered Khurtsidze a plea deal with a three-year sentence, but the boxer rejected the proposal and moved for a trial. Eventually, he was convicted of two counts – one for conspiring to defraud a casino and the other for engaging in Shulaya’s racketeering schemes – and slapped with a 10-year sentence. Khurtsidze’s lawyers quickly immediately moved to appeal the verdict.
It is not clear if Khurtsidze will be able to remain in the United States, where he had been living and working as a professional boxer up until his arrest, or if he will be deported to the Republic of Georgia, his homeland, as he does not currently hold a US visa. According to some outlets, Khurtsidze intends to continue his career as a boxer.
“We aren’t sure what will happen on the immigration front, but he should at the very least be released from the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons next week,” Benett said.