Glenn Marshall was merely a "pawn" in a scheme to make illegal campaign contributions and defraud the government, his attorney told a federal judge yesterday. B.S.
"He didn't know what he was doing half the time," Paul Markham told Judge Rya Zobel during Marshall's sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court.
But Zobel wasn't buying it.
The judge sentenced Marshall to 3½ years in federal prison for several crimes he pleaded guilty to in February, including embezzling nearly $400,000 from the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to pay his own bills, making illegal campaign contributions, filing false tax returns and fraudulently receiving Social Security benefits while holding a full-time job.
Yesterday's hearing began with an attempt by Markham to withdraw the plea agreement reached between Marshall and the government in December, and ended with an apology from the former leader of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to "my people."
Marshall was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release and repay the $383,000 he stole from the tribe and the $85,000 he received in fraudulent payments from the Social Security Administration.
He will report on his own accord to a yet-to-be-determined facility on June 8.
"I think that the defendant, Mr. Marshall, was motivated to do good things for the tribe, but he too was ultimately corrupted," the judge said before handing down her sentence. "While it may have started with the corruption of and by others, Mr. Marshall accepted the corrupt practices."
In arguing for the 3½-year prison term, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Mitchell called the case one of the more serious campaign finance crimes the federal government has prosecuted in recent years, classifying Marshall's acts as a "white collar crime spree."
"The public should know that people in Mr. Marshall's position and it was a very prominent one that he shouldn't be able to get away with these types of things," Mitchell told the judge.
The investigation into Marshall's misdeeds began before he was forced to step down as tribe chairman in August 2007 when lies about his military service and a prior rape conviction were publicized, Mitchell said after the hearing.
Over the course of the investigation, Marshall met with the prosecutor and with federal agents on multiple occasions, going over details of his crimes, including the exact amounts he fraudulently received.
But yesterday, Marshall and his attorney, who did not represent him at the time he signed the agreement, attempted to show that the amounts detailed in the plea agreement were incorrect. Marshall wasn't sure just what he was agreeing to at the time, he and his lawyer said.
"It was so much for me to be hit with at one time, I didn't really fathom half of the stuff that they were talking about. I was under a lot of stress," Marshall told the judge.
The judge asked Marshall if he had any doubts when he entered his guilty plea.
"No," he told her. "It's taken me a long while to just swallow everything that's in there."
Marshall's attorney blamed the case on the publicity that surrounded Marshall as the tribe achieved federal recognition and began its pursuit of an Indian casino in 2007.
"If this is a significant and widely known case, the reason for that is the Cape Cod Times," Markham told the judge. "I don't think anybody on this side of the Bourne Bridge ever heard of Mr. Marshall."
And the $383,000 that he took from the "fishermen's fund" really belonged to Herb Strather, the tribe's casino backer. And he never complained, Markham said.
The new tribal leaders, elected only days before Marshall pleaded guilty this winter, were in attendance yesterday to watch the sentencing.
"The Mashpee Wampanoag tribe has been deeply saddened by the actions of Glenn Marshall," tribal council chairman Cedric Cromwell said in a written statement. "However, the tribal government and the people of our sovereign nation are committed to moving forward with transparency and integrity toward all of our tribe members to ensure that we never again experience this type of betrayal."
For Stephanie Tobey-Roderick, who helped expose Marshall's crimes, the sentence was "a good thing."
"Come on, we were right, he stole money, he's going to jail, see ya later," she said after the sentencing, wearing her now-familiar "Stop Tribal Corruption" T-shirt. "Hopefully we can start to heal."
But Amelia Bingham, who also reported to the authorities information she had collected about Marshall, still wasn't satisfied. "He didn't get enough time," she said.
Rich Young, who has led the anti-casino effort in Middleboro, where the tribe is still pursuing a gambling facility, said he hopes Marshall's sentencing will bolster his case.
"This just makes it much harder for them," he said of the Mashpee tribe.
Under the federal prison system, Marshall may receive up to 54 days of credit for each year served for good behavior. In this case, that leaves the possibility that the sentence may be reduced by about 15 percent, Mitchell said.