Charles Littlejohn: Man who leaked Trump’s tax returns sentenced to five years

Charles Littlejohn: Man who leaked Trump's tax returns sentenced to five years
Donald Trump at a Sunday campaign rallyGetty Images

A former US tax worker has been sentenced to five years in prison over the unauthorised leak of Donald Trump’s personal tax records to media outlets.

Charles Littlejohn, 38, must also spend three years under supervised release and pay a $5,000 fine for his actions.

Littlejohn stole tax data from thousands of wealthy Americans while working as a contractor for the US-wide Internal Revenue Service.

His sentence was the statutory maximum penalty that could have been imposed.

Littlejohn’s offence was “an attack on our constitutional democracy”, federal District Judge Ana Reyes said before sentencing him on Monday.

“He targeted the sitting president of the United States of America, and that is exceptional by any measure,” she added. “It cannot be open season on our elected officials.”

In a brief statement to the court, Littlejohn acknowledged his crime and said he had been aware of its potential consequences at the time but claimed he was driven by a desire for transparency.

“I made my decision with full knowledge that I would likely end up in a courtroom to answer for my serious crime,” he said.

“I used my skills to systematically violate the privacy of thousands of people.”

His legal team argued in a court filing that Littlejohn had acted “out of a deep, moral belief that the American people had a right to know the information and sharing it was the only way to effect change”.

“He did what he thought was right at the time, but now fully acknowledges that he was wrong,” his lawyers added.

That explanation did not appear to sway Judge Reyes in her sentencing decision.

She said imposing the maximum penalty would ensure nobody could view Littlejohn’s conduct as “acceptable or justifiable or worth the trade-off”.

“The fact that he did what he did and he is facing one felony count, I have no words for,” the judge said.

Littlejohn pleaded guilty in October to one count of disclosing tax return information.

Although charging records did not name Mr Trump as the government official victimised by his conduct, the ex-contractor identified him aloud in court as he admitted to the crime.

He also said that he had given information about Mr Trump’s taxes to two US media outlets, the New York Times and ProPublica. Neither organisation is accused of wrongdoing.

Lawyers representing the government told the court on Monday that Littlejohn “sought to influence an election and reshape the nation’s political discourse” in one of the “most serious” crimes in IRS history.

They alleged that, over a two-year period at the tax agency, Littlejohn “abused his position” and “weaponised his access to unmasked taxpayer data to further his own personal, political agenda”.

Some of the other tax returns he admitted to acquiring dated as far back as 15 years, they claimed in a court filing.

The New York Times published an extensive report on Mr Trump’s tax returns in September 2020, revealing he paid only $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency and no taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years.

In an editor’s note, the paper’s then-editor affirmed the press’s right “to publish newsworthy information that was legally obtained by reporters”.

ProPublica meanwhile is said to have received a storage device from Littlejohn that contained tax returns and sensitive information for thousands of other wealthy people.

Following his sentencing on Monday, Littlejohn was ordered to turn himself in by 30 April.

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Source: bbc.co.uk

By David Ryckman