A federal judge sentenced a man to the maximum possible sentence of five years in prison Monday for the leak of tax documents of then-President Donald Trump and more than a thousand other people, including Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott and billionaires Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Elon Musk.
Scott spoke as a victim at the sentencing hearing of Charles Littlejohn, a former contractor for the Internal Revenue Service who had pleaded guilty in October to one charge of disclosing tax return information without authorization.
Scott advocated the maximum prison sentence and told Judge Ana C. Reyes of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that he and his family had to live with the knowledge that their confidential information had been spread and they didn’t know how or when the information might be used or published.
But Scott also took aim at the Biden administration’s handling of the case, telling the judge that it “doesn’t make sense” that Littlejohn faced only one criminal charge for his actions.
Littlejohn provided several publications with the tax returns of Trump and several billionaires in 2019 and 2020, which they published, according to court records.
Scott said prosecutors had been more aggressive in their pursuit of the theft of a diary belonging to presidential daughter Ashley Biden and that the taxpayers whose information was leaked were “all attacked for political purposes that coincided with the political leanings of the Biden administration.”
Reyes noted before Scott spoke that “this is a courtroom not a campaign rally” and at one point interrupted Scott when he started to discuss the administration’s motives for handling the case.
“I’m not going to listen to allegations of political corruption at DOJ,” Reyes said.
But Reyes did raise her own issues about the handling of the case, repeatedly questioning the government about why Littlejohn faced only one charge in his plea agreement.
“The fact he did what he did and faces one felony count I have no words for,” Reyes said.
Reyes told Littlejohn that he did profound damage to the country and then handed down the maximum sentence that prosecutors, along with Scott and other congressional Republicans, had sought in the case.
“What you did in targeting the sitting president of the United States was an attack on our constitutional democracy,” Reyes said.
Reyes said she felt an obligation to stand against declaring “open season” on elected officials and that Littlejohn stole information affecting thousands of people who may now be questioning forever whether it will be published or used by bad actors.
Jonathan Jacobson, a DOJ prosecutor, called Littlejohn’s actions “unprecedented in the history of the Internal Revenue Service” but did not say why the government agreed to only one count or what other crimes Littlejohn could have faced.
Prosecutors said Littlejohn’s actions compromised more than 1,000 people’s tax information and damaged public trust in the tax system.
Reyes noted at the hearing that she had received a letter from Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee recommending Littlejohn receive the maximum sentence and criticizing the DOJ for allowing Littlejohn to plead guilty to only one criminal count.
The judge said she considered it but did not use it as the basis for her decision.
The letter, led by committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., argued Littlejohn “acted with an apparent political motivation and perhaps with an intent to impact a Presidential election.”
Before the sentence, Littlejohn’s attorney, Lisa Manning, said her client believed that voters should know the tax information of the president and know more about how the wealthy avoid paying taxes.
Manning said Littlejohn’s actions “however misguided, did not come from malice or avarice.”
Littlejohn spoke at the hearing and said he was acting in the “sincere, if misguided” belief that his actions would serve the common good.
Reyes said there was “nothing noble or moral” about Littlejohn’s actions. She noted that he sought a job where he would have access to taxpayer information, including that of the president.
Littlejohn then first stole Trump’s tax return information, which he provided to The New York Times for a story published in September 2020 in advance of the 2020 election, Reyes said.
Later, he stole the information of thousands of wealthy individuals, Reyes said, before providing it to ProPublica. In 2021, ProPublica published information about how Bezos, Buffett and others pay little in federal taxes relative to the average American.