U.S. District Court Judge Harry Claiborne was sentenced yesterday to two years in prison for income tax evasion, becoming the first federal judge ordered to prison for crimes committed while on the bench. His lawyers said they will appeal the sentence.
Presiding Judge Walter E. Hoffman of Virginia sentenced Claiborne to concurrent terms of two years on each of two counts of tax evasion. He also fined Claiborne $10,000.
"It is a sorry day for you, Judge Claiborne, but it is even a sorrier day for the federal judiciary," Hoffman said. He ordered Claiborne to serve his time at a federal institution at Maxwell Air Force Base at Montgomery, Ala.
Claiborne, 67, was one of Nevada's most successful criminal defense lawyers when he was named to the federal post in 1977. He claimed that the Justice Department was out to get him because of his outspoken opposition to the tactics of federal agents operating in Las Vegas. Government attorneys described him as "desperate for money" after taking a drastic drop in income while maintaining a flamboyant life style. His judicial salary was $73,100.
They said that, after becoming a judge, Claiborne received thousands of dollars in past-due legal fees and loans that he did not declare on his income tax returns.