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August 4, 2006

Claude Allen gets probation for lying, cheating and stealing

As detailed in this AP report,  former White House adviser, Claude Allen, today pled guilty in Maryland state court to one misdemeanor count of theft under $500.  According to the report, Allen "was sentenced to two years of supervised probation and ordered to pay a $500 fine [and he] must also pay $850 in restitution to Target Corp. and perform 40 hours of community service."

I wonder if Justice Breyer and some members of Congress are troubled by this sentencing outcome, since it does not seems to reflect Allen's "real" conduct.  According to the AP report, Allen actually "made thousands of dollars worth of fraudulent returns to Target and other stores last year."  Justice Breyer's work in Booker suggests that he and Congress believe it is essential for a defendant's real conduct to drive sentencing outcomes.

Also, Allen is lucky he was not subject to the federal sentencing guidelines; he would likely have faced an enhancement for obstruction of justice for misleading White House officials.  According to the AP report, Allen "told the White House about the arrest, but said it was the result of a mix-up with his credit cards.  President Bush later said it would be 'deeply disappointing' if Allen had misled White House officials."

Finally, I suspect the House Judiciary Chair James Sensenbrenner and the Justice Department might be troubled by the lenient sentencing philosophy adopted by the sentencing judge.  Here's the AP account:

Allen could have been sentenced to 18 months in prison on the theft charge. Judge Eric Johnson, however, gave Allen probation before judgment, which means his record will be expunged after his probation is over.  The judge noted that Allen already has suffered public humiliation for his arrest, and said he appreciated that Allen accepted responsibility for the crimes without trying to make excuses. "You are a classic example ... of the fact that shame is not dead," Johnson said.

Geez, this sort of sympathetic approach to sentencing a white-collar offender seems to undercut the "tough on crime" movement of the last two decades.  I wonder if main Justice is considering a follow-up federal prosecution of Allen (as in this case) to make sure the nation's interests in a "fair and tough" sentencing system are fully vindicated.

August 4, 2006 at 05:25 PM | Permalink


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I think that maybe the initial figures were overinflated, as they often are in cases like this. With a restitution order, probably most people are happy.

Whatever the case, this crime is not that uncommon (though the details of how cc fraud is committed differ), and in MD this sentence is about normal for a first offense. Obviously, things would have been different if the losses were greater.

Posted by: S.cotus | Aug 4, 2006 5:50:15 PM

But isn't it important, in such a high-profile case, to have a tough sentence for deterrence purposes?

Realize, of course, that I had my tounge planted firmly in my cheek as I wrote this post...

Posted by: Doug B. | Aug 4, 2006 5:58:26 PM

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