Tuesday, December 13, 2005
A former top State Department official plead guilty to making false statements and faces up to 13 years in prison according to a CNN (AP) story here.
The former "Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs" admitted that he removed classified documents from the State Department. According to the initial affidavit filed in this case here, the accused allegedly failed to disclose a trip to Taiwan and was seen passing an envelope at a restaurant in Virginia, suspicious conduct in light of the circumstances. "The Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies" here provides details of the background on the case and the individual who had been charged, as well as a wealth of newspaper articles that provide the historical commentary.
The government chose the route of a plea to an extraneous offense - false statements - as opposed to a substantive crime (perhaps none was actually committed). In the case of a plea agreement, using crimes such as false statements can be a way to find a mutually acceptable crime that will confine the sentence within certain boundaries. This process is less problematic than when the prosecutor charges a "short-cut" type of offense, like false statements or obstruction of justice, just because it is easier to proceed with such a prosecution than investigate the actual crime.