Former House IT staffer at center of debunked conspiracy theories avoids jail time

Imran Awan, the former House information technology staffer whose proximity to Democratic Party leadership m...

Posted: Aug 22, 2018 5:29 AM
Updated: Aug 22, 2018 5:29 AM

Imran Awan, the former House information technology staffer whose proximity to Democratic Party leadership made him a linchpin of conspiracy theories pushed by Republicans up to the President, was sentenced Tuesday to time served and three months of supervised release for lying on a bank loan application.

Awan pleaded guilty last month to the single charge. The plea agreement, reached after a yearlong investigation that was punctuated by stories pushed in conservative media and fanned by President Donald Trump claiming that Awan was a Pakistani spy involved in the hack of the Democratic National Committee computer systems, included an unusual paragraph dispelling those claims.

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In an emotional hearing Tuesday in DC federal court, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan handed down the lenient punishment along with condemnations for the "unbelievable onslaught of scurrilous media attacks" and "baseless accusations" that were "lobbed at [Awan] from the highest branches of government."

Prosecutors did not oppose a sentence without further jail time, and Chutkan said Tuesday that Awan had "suffered sufficiently" and "has paid a price that he will continue to pay."

Awan, a former staffer for Democratic House members, including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who served as the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee through much of the run-up to the 2016 election, was arrested on bank fraud charges in July 2017.

The charges were born from an investigation of Awan and a group of other House technology employees that included family members of Awan's family by the US Capitol Police and the FBI for the alleged theft of congressional computer equipment.

While he was never charged with a crime connected to his government work, conservative media outlets, including Fox News, speculated about his possible connections to the DNC hack and Pakistani intelligence.

Trump has referred to him in a tweet as a "Pakistani mystery man" and in June wrote, "Our Justice Department must not let Awan & Debbie Wasserman Schultz off the hook. The Democrat I.T. scandal is a key to much of the corruption we see today."

In the plea agreement reached last month, prosecutors debunked the theories, writing that they "found no evidence [Awan] illegally removed House data from the House network or from House Members' offices, stole the House Democratic Caucus Server, stole or destroyed House information technology equipment, or improperly accessed or transferred government information" after a "thorough investigation" that included interviewing 40 witnesses and taking custody of the House Democratic Caucus server.

In court, Chutkan said that Awan and his family have been the subject of harassment and threats and that his children have had to change schools.

Awan choked back tears as he addressed the court and said he took responsibility for lying on the bank form -- an application for a home equity loan he filled out while dealing with his father's serious illness.

"It was a lapse of judgment. It was a very difficult time in my life," he said.

Awan also said he had "no grudges in my heart for anyone moving forward."

"What those people did and all the stories they wrote, I forgive them for what they did," he said.

Awan hugged his attorney, Christopher Gowen, after he received his sentence.

In an interview following the hearing, Gowen suggested his client might try and seek a job in Silicon Valley. Awan said he would leave his fate up to God.

"I'm grateful to be here in this country and whatever it has given me. There's so much goodness here, and that should not get overshadowed," Awan said.

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