Is Rep. Michael Grimm Heading To A Cell?

Mark down Tuesday, December 23 as a not-so-hot day for Representative Michael Grimm. The House Republican representing New York's Staten Island offered a plea today, so you have to imagine his holiday season is pretty close to ruined. Yes, that's right — Michael Grimm plead guilty to felony tax evasion, bringing to a head the legal troubles that have scandalized his career in recent months.

It's a particularly unsympathetic story, given Grimm's history of bombast and tough-talk — this, in case you've forgotten, is the same man who once threatened on camera to break a reporter "in half," and then hurl him off a Capital balcony — hardly the kind of level-headedness that's likely to win many people's favor, in other words.

The charges against Grimm alleged he'd serially hidden his earnings from a Manhattan restaurant called Healthalicious, where he became an investor in 2007, according to CBS News, after retiring from his past job in the FBI and setting his sights on a career in politics. The final tally, all said and done? He stood accused of underreporting a whopping $1 million, and that's not the sort of tab the IRS is likely to leave hanging.

So what's next for Grimm? The answer, as much as he may try to avoid it, could be a prison sentence. According to The New York Times, United States District Judge Pamela K. Chen will have the job of sentencing the 44-year-old Republican congressman, and it could fall somewhere between 24 to 30 months. But Grimm has a clear criminal record, so he may not get jail time at all.

Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

That said, if Grimm were looking for an easy way to benchmark just how much lost time a likely prison sentence would mean, he could look at it this way — two years is the length of a single term in the House of Representatives.

And, of course, that job in the House is now in serious peril. As the Times notes, Grimm's attorney's could seek a sentence with no prison time, though there's no guarantee that Chen would go for it. And even if she did, there's no telling what punishment by House membership, whether through official censure or behind-the-scene pressure, he could face. It's by no means a given that he'd be forced to resign if he managed to dodge prison — Republican Louisiana Senator David Vitter is still in office, after all, despite being caught in a high-profile prostitution scandal, and longtime Democratic New York Rep. Charlie Rangel's career moved forward after his own tax evasion scandal and censure in 2010.

But, then again, Grimm isn't a decades-old veteran of his institution the way Rangel is, and based on his earned reputation as, well, the guy who threatens to break reporters in half, it seems a little less knowable whether his own party leaders would tolerate any potential blowback just to keep him around. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi has already called on Speaker John Boehner to force Grimm's resignation; Boehner, on the other hand, has declined to comment to the media before meeting with Grimm privately. If Grimm indeed decides to resign, is forced to by his sentence, or is forced out by Boehner, there will be a special election to replace him.

Image: Getty Images