WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer to two months in prison for lying to federal investigators about his interactions with reporters.
The sentence U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson handed down was less than the two years in prison the government requested for James Wolfe, but above Wolfe’s request to receive only community service. After being released from prison, Wolfe will also need to complete 20 hours of community service per month over four months of supervised release.
Wolfe pleaded guilty in October to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with journalists while working as the director of security for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, including by concealing an affair he had with a reporter who covered the panel.
Jackson told Wolfe she did not give much weight to his claims that he lost everything as a result of his lies to the FBI, saying if anything the responsibilities he had as the Senate Intelligence Committee’s director of security gave him greater culpability. Jackson said she routinely sentences people who have life circumstances that make it far more difficult for them to avoid crime.
“Both just punishment and deterrence warrant incarceration in this case,” said Jackson, who is black.
The FBI first interviewed Wolfe while looking into leaks coming out of the committee’s inquiry into former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. During these investigations, the FBI learned Wolfe had been involved in a relationship with one reporter, later revealed to be the New York Times’ Ali Watkins, and had offered to be a confidential source to another journalist.
Wolfe also provided “non-public unclassified” information from the committee to other reporters.
Wolfe lied about these contacts over the course of multiple interviews with the FBI, even after the FBI had information that contradicted his claims.
Wolfe, who wore a dark gray suit with a blue striped tie and a gold pin on his lapel, broke down as he spoke to Jackson before she handed down his sentence. He lamented the stress that publicly revealing his affair placed on his marriage, as well as the loss of his job and the hit his plea gave to his standing in the community.
“I lied about those to protect my wife, my sons, and, selfishly, I like about those to protect myself and my job,” Wolfe said from the podium in the courtroom Thursday.
He stared straight ahead as Jackson handed down his sentence. Earlier in the hearing, Jackson had rejected the government’s request to sentence Wolfe to a period in prison far above the six-month top of the sentencing guidelines.
Prosecutor Jocelyn Ballantine argued Wolfe’s lies were part of a years-long pattern of conduct of flouting his role as director of security for the Senate panel, warranting a harsher sentence than the normal guidelines require.
Wolfe’s attorney, Buckley Sandler attorney Preston Burton, countered by noting current and former leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee – Sens. Richard Burr, Mark Warner and Dianne Feinstein – wrote a letter of support for Wolfe, asking Jackson not impose jail time.
Page also submitted a letter to Jackson in the case, though Jackson said as the court hearing began that she gave Page’s submission no weight.