A U.S. prosecutor in Baltimore yesterday publicly attacked sentences handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Gasch in General Services Administration corruption cases as, in effect, encouraging more GSA corruption.
The remarks, made in open court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel M. Clements, escalated a controversy that began last week when U.S. Attorney Earl J. Silbert in Washington leveled similar criticism against Judge Gasch.
Clements'remarks came shortly before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph H. Young in Baltimore imposed the stiffest sentence yet in the GSA corruption scandal. He sentenced H. David Levyne, president of a Maryland office supply firm, to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine for bribing GSA employes to write phony contracts for his firm.
Prior to yesterday's sentencing, Levyne's lawyer, Allen Schwait, had argued that any sentence should take into account that Levyne had cooperated with prosecutors in the GSA investigation and that Judge Gasch in Washington had not imposed jail sentences on two contractors who admitted receiving $1.2 million in phony GSA contracts.
Clements said in response, however, that "the government feels that those sentences in D.C. are inappropriate and that, in fact, by giving contractors in D.C. probation, we believe that adds to the problem rather than takes it away. . . As long as contractors can come in and can bribe government employes and get probation, the problem is enhanced because they know there is little risk to them."
Judge Gasch said yesterday he had no comment.
Last week, in papers filed in court here, Silbert called nonjail sentences imposed by Gasch on contractors Carmen O'connor and David Harold Smith "totally inadequate." He said they give the appearance that "crime does, indeed, pay."
O'Connor had admitted receiving $1 million in contracts to do GSA work that never existed and kicking back most of it to the GSA employes who wrote the contracts. Smith make similar admissions about $210,000 in GSA contracts he received.
Both O'Connor and Smith were ordered to pay $5,000 in fines, and give 200 hours of their time in community service.
The sentence imposed on Levyne, 45, who was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government, is the maximum allowable. Altogether, Levyne admitted receiving $1.7 million from GSA for office supplies that were never delivered and spending $1.3 million of that to bribe the GSA employes who wrote the contracts.