A federal judge sentenced former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe to two months prison Thursday, following a guilty plea in October for lying to the FBI about media contacts.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson also fined Wolfe $7,500. She is allowing him to self-surrender to prison and will recommend minimum security in Cumberland, Maryland.
“It saddens me to stand here before you today. … I’m not sure it’s possible to feel any lower than I do right at this moment,” Wolfe said in court before he was sentenced. “I am sorry. I am beyond embarrassed. I am beyond humiliated. I am beyond mortified.”
Jackson rebuffed a request from prosecutors for an expansive sentence but ultimately agreed some prison time was necessary both as a punishment for Wolfe and a “deterrence” factor.
“There is no question that you have committed a serious crime,” Jackson said.
Wolfe had been arrested and indicted this summer for lying to the FBI about media contacts during an investigation into unlawful disclosure of classified information. After Wolfe’s arrest, President Donald Trump claimed that law enforcement had “caught a leaker.”
Wolfe maintained during his emotional statement ahead of his sentencing that he had “never compromised classified information,” but apologized to his family and former colleagues.
An attorney for Wolfe referenced the President’s support for former national security adviser Michael Flynn, noting that Wolfe came to court without a “good luck tweet,” and said in filings ahead of Thursday’s hearing that Trump’s attack and media coverage of Wolfe’s legal saga had already been a form of punishment outside of incarceration.
The prospect of a high-profile trial after Wolfe’s arrest raised eyebrows, and CNN reported, citing Senate sources, that the longtime staffer had reached out privately to senators for their help. But the guilty plea ultimately staved off the possibility of testimony or even subpoenas for journalists, lawmakers and Capitol Hill staffers.
The case also sparked a debate about the press and the extent to which the government was willing to go in its leak investigations.
The New York Times reported at the time of Wolfe’s indictment that federal authorities had seized phone and email records from reporter Ali Watkins, who had previously been in a relationship with Wolfe.
Referencing the affair and Wolfe’s admitted lies to the FBI about that relationship and other contacts with the press, prosecutors called for his conduct to be considered as part of his sentencing.
Wolfe’s attorneys requested no prison time and suggested probation and community service instead. In support of his request for no prison time, they submitted letters of support from the leadership of the Senate Intelligence Committee as well as former top officials, including former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Wolfe’s attorneys also compared his request for no prison time to lenient sentences received by defendants in the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller, including Alex van der Zwaan and George Papadopoulos.