A former Internal Revenue Service contractor pleaded guilty last Thursday to stealing and releasing the tax return information of former President Donald Trump and thousands of other wealthy individuals, providing them to the media.
Charles Littlejohn, 38, pleaded guilty in a Washington, D.C. court, where Judge Ana Reyes warned of “severe consequences” for the illegal act, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
During his appearance, Littlejohn told the court he leaked Trump’s tax information to The New York Times and the information of thousands of other wealthy individuals to ProPublica.
As alleged by prosecutors, the news outlets then “published numerous articles describing the tax information they obtained from the Defendant,” reported CNN.
Prosecutors claimed Littlejohn obtained information “dating back more than 15 years,” but they did not explain how they came to believe he was the person who stole the data, the WSJ reported.
According to reports, in 2020, The New York Times claimed Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017. Similarly, ProPublica disclosed that billionaires like Jeff Bezos (in 2007 and 2011) and Elon Musk (in 2018) did not pay any federal income tax.
“Make no mistake, this was not acceptable,” said Judge Reyes, per NBC. “And if there’s anyone out there telling you it’s acceptable because the ends justify the means and they think the end is appropriate, they are wrong.”
During the court appearance, Alina Habba, one of Trump’s attorneys, recommended the five-year maximum prison sentence for the “atrocity” committed by Littlejohn. Despite Habba’s advocacy, prosecutors said they think Littlejohn will likely face 14-18 months in prison.
Habba claimed the tax information was leaked for “political purposes and personal gain,” adding that it “cost my client thousands of votes and was all by design,” according to the WSJ.
Nicole M. Argentieri, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said her department “will hold accountable those who illegally exploit their access to sensitive personal information.”
“The unauthorized theft and disclosure of tax return information by government employees or contractors is a serious breach of the public’s trust,” Argentieri added, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Public Affairs.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland made a similar statement, saying Littlejohn “broke federal law and betrayed the public’s trust.”
“In every case, the Department of Justice is committed to following the facts wherever they lead and holding accountable those who violate our laws,” Garland said.
Littlejohn is expected to be sentenced on January 29, 2024.