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Ex-Marine admits he lured Seth Rich conspiracy theorist Jack Burkman to a hotel parking garage, then shot him

Kevin Doherty in Arlington in 2017 while working for Jack Burkman.
Kevin Doherty in Arlington in 2017 while working for Jack Burkman. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)

A man who worked as an investigator for conspiracy theorist Jack Burkman will serve nine years in prison for shooting and wounding his ex-boss in a complicated plot involving a fake FBI exposé.

Kevin Doherty, 46, said little as Judge William T. Newman Jr. sentenced him Monday for malicious wounding and use of a firearm in commission of a felony, but he acknowledged the veracity of a set of facts read by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Evie Eastman detailing his “serious falling out” with Burkman and the “grand ruse” he concocted in revenge.

Eastman said Doherty lured Burkman to a hotel parking garage in March with the false promise of turning over details of FBI misconduct.

“It was all pretend,” Eastman said.

During the hearing in Arlington Circuit Court, Newman imposed a 23-year prison term with 14 years suspended. In addition, Doherty, who pleaded guilty to both charges, must pay back with interest the $15,000 Burkman gave him for the nonexistent FBI documents.

Burkman told The Washington Post in March that he hired Doherty, a onetime Marine, to investigate the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich. Burkman, a Republican lobbyist, has enmeshed himself in a conspiracy theory that Rich was killed for handing Democratic emails over to WikiLeaks. Law enforcement has deemed the homicide a botched street robbery, and Rich’s family has repeatedly sued right-wing news outlets for falsely reporting otherwise.

Doherty was supposed to build a psychological profile of Rich’s possible killer, but Burkman said in March that he and Doherty quickly came to loggerheads over control of the project. Burkman fired Doherty in July 2017.

In court, Eastman described the plot Doherty executed months later and how police tracked him down. Doherty sent Burkman emails pretending to have information “detrimental to the FBI.” Burkman paid Doherty $15,000 and arranged to pick up the documentation from under a traffic cone at the Key Bridge Marriott in Arlington on March 13.

When Burkman leaned over to get the documents, Eastman said, Doherty shot him twice in the buttocks with a rifle. Burkman fled up a parking ramp, carrying the traffic cone and his dog, Jack Jr. Doherty admitted he then ran down his former employer from behind the wheel of a black SUV.

Burkman suffered a broken arm, and two bullets remain lodged in his buttocks, Eastman said. His dachshund was not harmed.

Doherty drove off before police arrived, but Eastman said the black SUV was spotted in the garage on hotel security cameras before the attack. A man was seen leaving the vehicle and putting several items in a nearby trash can.

Inside the can, police found a shipping box addressed to Doherty and a handwritten note on calibrating a new weapon, along with fuel filters and ammunition.

Police quickly learned that Doherty had rented a large black SUV from Hertz at Reagan National Airport that morning. Hertz’s GPS tracking showed that the vehicle had been driven to the Marriott and then took a “circuitous route” to Boston after the attack, Eastman said. She said Doherty returned the SUV in Boston and got a new rental car.

The $15,000 Burkman paid was traced to Doherty’s bank account, the prosecutor said.

Doherty was arrested in Arlington on March 17. On his computer, Eastman said, authorities found emails to Burkman as well as searches on how to use a fuel filter as a silencer. In his home they found the rifle used in the attack. She said the weapon had been mailed there.

Doherty’s deal with prosecutors included the recommended sentence as well as their agreement to drop a second malicious-wounding charge.

The judge also ordered that after Doherty’s release from prison he must remain away from Burkman and his family.

Burkman did not appear in court and could not be immediately reached for comment. When the lobbyist spoke to The Post in March, Burkman said his interest in Rich’s death and conspiracy theories generally remained strong. Last month, Burkman held a news conference at which he claimed he had spoken to a woman who had been the victim of inappropriate behavior by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. No such woman ever appeared.

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