Alexandria, VA — Jeffrey Sterling, a CIA agent convicted of sharing classified information with a New York Times reporter, was sentenced today to three and a half years in prison, a significantly shorter term than had been expected.
Sterling’s lawyers had asked the judge not to abide by sentencing guidelines calling for 19 to 24 years behind bars. They argued Sterling should be treated with the same leniency shown to former Gen. David Petraeus, who was allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and avoid prison after admitting to leaking classified information to his biographer and then-girlfriend, Paula Broadwell. Sterling’s lawyers also pointed to the case of former CIA agent John Kiriakou, who was recently released from jail after a 30-month sentence for disclosing the name of a covert agent to a reporter, and to the 13-month-sentence handed down to Stephen Kim, who pleaded guilty to talking about a classified document with a Fox News reporter.
“[Sterling] should be treated similarly to others convicted for the same crimes and not singled out for a long prison sentence because he elected to exercise his right to trial,” his lawyers stated in a pre-sentencing memorandum, noting that Sterling had taken his case to a jury rather than reaching a pre-trial plea bargain with prosecutors. “[T]he court cannot turn a blind eye to the positions the government has taken in similar cases.”
U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema seemed to agree.