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Lawyer for organizer of failed festival says client is mentally ill

William McFarland's attorney wrote a letter to the judge, urging leniency for the Oct. 11 sentencing on his fraud conviction.

William McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre

William McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre Festival, leaves federal court in Manhattan on March 6. Photo Credit: AP/Mark Lennihan

The young entrepreneur who pleaded guilty to fraud for ripping off investors in last year’s chaotic Fyre Festival that left upscale concertgoers stranded on a poorly provisioned Bahamian island claims mental health problems caused his criminal behavior.

William McFarland has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse and ADHD, causing “manic or hypomanic” episodes, “disorganized” behavior and “delusional beliefs of having special and unique talents that will lead to fame and fortune,” his lawyer said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald in Manhattan.

“Nothing in this case speaks to any malicious intent on his part, just a sea of bad judgment, poor decisions, and the type of core instability that can only be explained by mental illness,” attorney Randall Jackson told Buchwald, urging leniency at McFarland’s scheduled Oct. 11 sentencing.

McFarland, 26, pleaded guilty in March to using misrepresentations to scam investors out of $26 million, months after his heavily promoted concert on the island of Exhuma turned into a spectacular fiasco.

Then, while he was out on bail awaiting sentencing in that case, he was charged with using a front company to defraud investors out of at least $150,000 in a new scam, by selling tickets he didn’t have to high-profile events like the Super Bowl and Grammys. He pleaded guilty in July.

Under advisory federal sentencing guidelines, he faces a minimum of more than 11 years. Probation officials have recommended a sentence of 8 years. Prosecutors have not yet filed their recommendation. McFarland’s sentencing letter was filed late Friday.

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