Ex-Aide To Bush Pleads Guilty

Claude A. Allen, center, arrives at court with wife Jannese Allen and attorney Gregory Craig. Allen expressed remorse for his actions:
Claude A. Allen, center, arrives at court with wife Jannese Allen and attorney Gregory Craig. Allen expressed remorse for his actions: "I lost perspective." (Photos By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 5, 2006

Former White House adviser Claude A. Allen took responsibility yesterday for shoplifting from stores in Montgomery County last year, saying that the months leading up to the thefts were marked by huge stress and sleep deprivation.

Allen, 45, who came from humble roots, put himself through law school and held several prominent government jobs before becoming President Bush's top aide on domestic policy in 2005, wept in court after thanking relatives and friends for standing by him. He pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor theft.

"Stealing is not something that I ever thought that I would ever do, and I did," he said. "I accept full responsibility for my actions and what I did. I am intensely, immensely sorry for that and very remorseful for the harm that I've caused so many. Something did go very wrong. I lost perspective and failed to restrain myself."

His wife cited Hurricane Katrina as one of the stressful issues that Allen was grappling with last fall.

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Eric M. Johnson sentenced Allen to probation before judgment -- a disposition available to first offenders in which the judge acknowledges the guilty plea but keeps it off the defendant's criminal record. If Allen completes his two years of supervised probation satisfactorily, his record could be expunged.

Johnson did not sentence Allen to jail but ordered him to reimburse $850 to Target for stolen merchandise, imposed a $500 fine and demanded that he perform 40 hours of community service. Several Rockville lawyers not involved in the case said the outcome is not unusual for a first-time offender charged with misdemeanor theft.

Assistant State's Attorney John D. Lalos said prosecutors didn't believe that Allen deserved probation before judgment because he shoplifted repeatedly. They wanted him found guilty of misdemeanor theft.

Allen's attorneys sought probation before judgment in part because it might have prevented attorney grievance committees in the three jurisdictions where Allen is a member of the bar from imposing serious sanctions or revoking his license.

The judge said he thought Allen was "legitimately remorseful," adding that he was confident that Allen would stay out of trouble.

"I think it goes without saying that the humiliation, the shame, the embarrassment, the hurt that you have brought upon yourself, upon your family and friends -- if that doesn't deter you, then there's nothing this court or any other court could do to deter you," Johnson said.

Allen arrived at court with his wife and about a dozen supporters. He sat in the gallery holding his wife's hand waiting for his case to be called. His wife, Jannese, reading from a prepared statement, described her husband, whom she met two decades ago, as an accomplished, humble and upstanding man.

"When Claude was arrested, I mourned, for I knew this was not the man I had married," Jannese Allen said.

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