Washington D.C. fraud and embezzlement charges had hounded a former neighborhood commissioner for months.
As D.C. criminal defense attorneys understand, the former public official will serve 30 days in jail - roughly, one day for each $1,000 he allegedly stole from taxpayer coffers.
William Shelton, the 42-year-old former Ward 5 advisory commissioner, had pleaded guilty back in January to the charges, involving some $29,000 worth of funds. According to prosecutors, he used the district's debit card for about 120 personal transactions. Those purchases included shopping trips to stores like Target and Bloomingdale's, as well as car expenses.
The Washington Post reports that in U.S. District Court, a federal judge ordered that following the jail term, Shelton is to serve 150 days of house arrest, followed by two years of probation. In the course of those two years, Shelton will not be able to accept a job in which he will have access to the business or employer's money, unless he gets prior approval from probation officers.
The prosecutor in the case labeled Shelton a "serial embezzler."
However, most D.C. criminal defense attorneys understand that even if there are multiple incidents of embezzlement - or cases in which a person is accused of stealing money that he or she is entrusted with - you can sometimes argue that they were all part of the same scheme. That can mean he or she can sometimes negotiate to reduce multiple counts of embezzlement down to just one.
Statements sent by anonymous residents in Shelton's ward were read aloud in court. Expressing feelings of "outrage" and "disgust," those comments likely didn't help his case.
Still, prosecutors had been hoping for a much stiffer sentence: six months in jail, followed by three years of probation.
Shelton's D.C. criminal defense attorney, speaking on his client's behalf, said that his clients has repeatedly expressed remorse and shame, and is trying to redeem himself as best he can. His attorney also made note of the fact that his client has been diagnosed with a mental health problem - a type of bipolar disorder - which he said contributed to his actions.
He went on to argue that jail time wasn't necessary, given the immense scrutiny the case has gotten, which meant extreme embarrassment and the reality that getting another job with a felony on his record is going to be extremely difficult.
Those were compelling arguments, though not quite enough to keep Shelton out of jail entirely.
Shelton settled a civil suit with the district back in December, agreeing to pay back the full $30,000. He made an initial installment of $5,000, and has agreed to pay back $200 monthly. So far, his payments have totaled $5,600.
Another D.C. Council member, Harry Thomas Jr., also pleaded guilty in January to theft of public money - some $350,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced this week as well, and could face up to 46 months in federal prison.
Continue reading "Washington D.C. Fraud: Public Official Sentenced" »