Charles Littlejohn, a former contractor for the IRS, has been sentenced to five years in prison after admitting to leaking President Trump's tax records.

Charles Littlejohn, a former contractor for the IRS, has been sentenced to five years in prison after admitting to leaking President Trump’s tax records.

A contractor for the Internal Revenue Service was sentenced to 5 years in prison, with 3 years of supervised release and a $5,000 fine, after pleading guilty to leaking the federal tax records of former President Donald Trump and other wealthy individuals. This concludes a legal matter that revealed the origin of several significant tax information breaches in recent times.

Charles Littlejohn, 38, admitted to unlawfully sharing tax returns and return information in October. He could have received up to 5 years in jail for this offense. According to investigators, he misused his role as a contractor for the country’s tax agency to acquire and distribute the financial documents of the ex-president. This led to the publication of multiple articles based on the data.

Prior to imposing the highest possible punishment on Littlejohn on Monday, Judge Ana Reyes of the federal District Court denounced his actions as “an assault on the integrity of our democratic system.”

The individual accused by investigators of being targeted by Littlejohn’s actions was reported to be Trump, a senior government official. A source familiar with the situation verified to CBS News that it was indeed the ex-president. At a court appearance last year, one of Trump’s lawyers read a statement on behalf of the former leader.

The prosecution’s memo states that Littlejohn, a former employee of the IRS contracting company, intentionally sought employment with the IRS in order to obtain Trump’s tax records. They claim that he took advantage of a vulnerability in the computer system to transfer the stolen data to a private website and then saved it on his personal device. Six months later, he allegedly released Trump’s tax returns to an unidentified news outlet.

A source knowledgeable about the inquiry verified to CBS News that Littlejohn disclosed Trump’s tax details to the New York Times, which chose not to respond when Littlejohn faced charges. According to the Times, Trump only paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 when he was elected president, and he paid the same amount in 2021, his initial year in office.

In September 2020, the Times released a detailed report on Trump’s tax returns. In an editor’s note, former editor Dean Baquet stated that there may be concerns about releasing the president’s personal tax information. However, the Supreme Court has consistently upheld the First Amendment right of the press to publish newsworthy information obtained legally by reporters, even if those in authority attempt to conceal it. This fundamental principle of the First Amendment is relevant in this situation.

According to a court document filed by the Department of Justice, Littlejohn confessed to obtaining tax returns that dated back 15 years and belonged to thousands of wealthy Americans. It is alleged that he sent a storage device with this information to a news organization, identified by CBS News as ProPublica.

When Littlejohn was accused, the publication refused to respond and stated that it was unaware of the source responsible for providing the extensive details on the taxes paid by the richest individuals in the country.

According to prosecutors, the data not only consisted of tax returns but also contained confidential details such as stock trades, gambling winnings, and audit findings. The prosecution claims that the individual’s intention was to grab public attention by revealing more scandalous information than just tax returns. They also noted that the damage caused by his actions is ongoing as media outlets continue to report on the leaked data.

The Justice Department stated that the individual carefully planned and carried out his plan to reveal information over the span of several years. He took precautions at each stage to avoid being caught and to make the most significant impact with his disclosures. In fact, he even rearranged his entire life to commit this crime.

Senator Rick Scott, representing Florida, wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland last week, disclosing that he had been targeted by Littljohn’s acknowledged plot. He denounced the plea bargain for the sole charge and made a statement in court, denouncing Littlejohn’s agreement with the Department of Justice as the “deal of the century.”

Scott stated that all Americans are impacted by the leak and that his family will suffer from its consequences for a long time. He believed that the plea agreement reflected a biased process. Judge Reyes intervened during Scott’s speech in court, reminding him that political remarks were not allowed.

“I am at a loss for words,” stated the judge, clearly frustrated, in response to the defendant’s actions and subsequent felony charge.

The judge seemed agitated at moments with the prosecutors as she grappled with guidelines suggesting a sentence of only 18 months for a crime that she believed deserved severe consequences and dissuasion. Reyes inquired with prosecutor Jonathan Jacobson about potential additional charges that Littlejohn could have faced if he had not pleaded guilty, but the government lawyer did not give specifics and stated that the current charge was the most appropriate for the committed crime.

On Monday, prosecutors stated that a 60-month sentence would suffice as punishment and discourage others from committing similar offenses.

“The prosecutors stated that it is important for the court to recognize that there will be significant repercussions,” they explained to your honor.

In a recent court filing, Littlejohn’s defense attorney requested that Judge Reyes reject the Justice Department’s recommended maximum sentence of 5 years. The defense argued that a few months of imprisonment would be a more appropriate punishment for the crime.

The defense team argued that the defendant committed this act because of a strong moral conviction that the public had a right to access the information, and that sharing it was the only way to bring about change. They also stated that the defendant believed he was doing the right thing at the time, but now recognizes that he was mistaken.

Filled with positive comments and statements about his character from loved ones – including intimate details and written reflections on his passion for tax responsibilities – Littlejohn’s legal document requested mercy and highlighted his previous schooling, professional achievements as an IRS contractor, and clean record.

Based on evidence presented in court, Littlejohn initially had reservations about sharing the records he obtained due to his belief in achieving financial fairness. However, he ultimately chose to disclose the information.

The defense stated that they were aware that the New York Times would follow the same precautions as before when reporting on the topic. This includes securely storing the data, not making the records public, and using the information only for journalistic purposes.

The defense expressed deep remorse for Trump’s tax data being stolen and shared with the media.

On Monday, defense lawyer Lisa Manning continued to advocate for a reduced punishment and claimed that the prosecutors have requested the court to disregard the law by imposing a sentence well beyond the recommended guidelines. She stated that he had taken accountability and cooperated with the investigators to reveal the full extent of his offenses.

The judge instructed Littlejohn to surrender himself by April 30th.

Robert Legare