It is not often that a man who has just been sentenced to jail walks over, as David C. Faison did yesterday in federal court, and shakes the hands of the people who helped put him behind bars.
Accused of stealing $67,000 in uncut bills from his office at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Faison, 56, pleaded guilty in September, and yesterday he was to learn his fate.
The judge was talking about a year behind bars. The prosecutor was asking for six months. And Faison, a widowed heroin addict, was hoping for probation.
It was a long shot, and he knew it.
An employee at the Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving for 36 years, Faison had stolen 21 sheets of uncut $100 bills that lacked embossing with seals or serial numbers. As a stock control recorder, he had access to the plant's printing section.
The crime last spring was a rash act of opportunity, his attorney said.
But what happened next was not.
With considerable precision, Faison cut the bills to size and began going to casinos in West Virginia, Delaware and New Jersey, where he was able to convert the unfinished currency into bona fide bills. He did it by putting the bills into slot machines and playing a few rounds of slots. Then he cashed out -- and got real bills.
Before he was arrested in August, Faison had managed to put $37,200 into circulation and trigger alarms at the Treasury Department over the breach of the nation's currency-printing process. Authorities found the rest of the bills at Faison's home in Largo when he was arrested.
Once caught, Faison cooperated readily, said the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan R. Barr. Within a month, he had pleaded guilty to a counterfeiting charge.
As part of his plea agreement, he met with law enforcement agents and Treasury officials to explain how he had managed to swipe the 21 sheets of bills -- 32 to a page -- from the Bureau of Engraving building where he worked at 14th and C streets SW.
Exactly what he told them has not been made public. A great deal about Faison, however, was revealed in the courtroom yesterday from those who have known him longest.
One by one, they came before U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman to ask for mercy and understanding.
One of his brothers, George Faison, an accomplished dancer and choreographer, spoke of second chances. Another, Daniel Faison, called the theft an "aberration" and said he and his brothers had been raised to know better.
A friend said Faison has turned away from his devastating addiction and made a new life for himself. Another said that Faison had been shaken terribly by the death of his wife and was only now finding his way.
Finally, Faison addressed the court. He expressed remorse for his crime. He spoke of the loss of several family members. He called his actions a "life-altering mistake."
Then he thanked the judge, who had already made it clear that he was inclined to reject Faison's petition for probation and incarcerate him.
A few moment later, it was the judge's turn. He began by saying how moved he had been by the testimonials of Faison's family and friends. He brought the probation officers to the bench for a conference, then did the same with the prosecutor and the defense lawyer, apparently trying to hammer out a fair arrangement.
Back in open court, Friedman outlined the factors he needed to weigh -- the seriousness of the crime, the background of the defendant and, of particular importance, the need to deter other employees in positions of trust from exploiting that trust.
Probation was not on the table, the judge said.
Early in the hearing, the judge had proposed sentencing Faison to a year and a day. Such a penalty would allow Faison to be placed in a federal prison rather than the D.C. jail, where sentences of less than a year are typically served. At a federal prison, with time off for good behavior, Faison could be out after a little more than 10 months, the judge said.
The alternative was a sentence that might not be as long but might be served at the D.C. jail -- a far less comfortable facility than the minimum-security federal prison where Faison probably would have ended up.
The judge tried to find a middle ground, giving Faison nine months and saying he would recommend that Faison be placed in a federal facility, where his drug and mental health problems could be treated more effectively. The judge also ordered him to pay $37,200 in restitution and placed him under supervision for three years after his release.
Faison took it all in. Then he turned to the prosecutor and investigators and shook their hands.