Ethics Dunce: Federal Judge Liam O’Grady

"I swear judge, I have no idea who that guy next to me is."

“I swear judge, I have no idea who that guy next to me is.”

When civil rights advocates point to the disparity of sentencing for non-violent African-American drug offenders and white, shameless, greedy crooks like Kathleen McGrade and her husband, Brian Collinsworth, my best course is to feign a seizure or something. I have no good explanation for them, except that judges like federal judge Liam O’Grady are a large part of the problem.

McGrade was a management analyst for the State Department who used her position and influence to fraudulently direct $53,000,000 in 43 government contacts for construction projects and security work at U.S. sites overseas to the Sterling Royale Group, whose Vice President and CEO were Collinsworth and her daughter Jennifer Herring. She did this by hiding her relationship to the company and its officers. The taxpayer-funded family bounty, meanwhile, allowed McGrade to buy a $73,000 Lexus, a half-million-dollar yacht and nearly $223,000 in jewelry.

This is all both spectacularly illegal, and outrageously unethical, and she was, in the famous words of the jury in “The Producers,” “incredibly guilty.” What, then, would you say is a proper sentence for this betrayal of the American people, cheating of competitors, and lucrative fraud? Ten years? Twenty years?

Judge O’Grady  gave her two years, and her spousal partner in crime six months less. He wept, you see, while she, bless her little sociopathic soul,  denied wrongdoing, saying in her pre-sentencing statement that she  was in court only because she had “been told that somehow the procurements that took place were illegal,” until it was obvious to her that this wasn’t going over well with the judge. Then she said she was “very, very,sorry.” Oh, thought the judge, that’s better. She’s a good person after all.

The minimum sentence recommended by federal sentencing guidelines is almost six years, and that’s ridiculous for as egregious misconduct as this. Apparently the judge was moved by the fact that the family business actually performed the work it illegally procured through McGrade’s manipulation and deception, and all that remorse, of course. Meanwhile, McGrady, who made it clear that she sees little wrong with what she did, will be out on the streets looking for new scams to run in two years, less with good behavior, while some inner city nickle bag drug dealer continues to to rot away.

I think risking two years in jail to get millions of dollars will seem like a sensible transaction to a lot of people, just as Wall Street manipulators can easily calculate that the risk-reward ratio their art involves is a similarly good gamble. Ethical people don’t do unethical things because they are wrong; unethical people do unethical things because the potential benefits are greater than the potential risks. Sentencing logic like Judge O’Grady’s undermines the credibility of the justice system, doesn’t even protect the public, and looks just as terrible as it is.

I’m going to have that seizure now.


Facts: Daily Mail, Washington Post

Graphic: Daily Mail



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9 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Federal Judge Liam O’Grady

  1. On the subject of disparate sentencing, there was an interesting study. Sadly, I don’t remember enough about it to give you a citation.

    Someone sent out hypothetical sentencing folders out to judges as part of a survey and asked what sentence the judges would impose. The folders included a photo of the hypothetical convict.

    Identical sentencing folders drew longer sentences when the photo showed a black than when the photo showed a white.

    “Identical” means the disparity can’t be excused by different criminal records, different types of offense, or any non-racial reason.

    Obnoxious people who annoy me so much I don’t want to believe them talk about “unconscious racism”. It may be real, if the judges were not being deliberately racist.

      • Ah, but Lady Justice is blind or supposed to be… I expect someone who studied society and the law and holds a great position of power to be able to follow as simple a guideline as “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. I may not expect it of the average Joe but I do of a judge.

    • That’s what I was thinking- “gamble,” Hell! If you told me I was GUARANTEED to be sentenced to 2 years, I’d be thinking long and hard about making the trade anyway.

  2. There was a day in age, in Ancient Greece… what I call pre-default Greece or Greece of fiscal responsibility, where public officials convicted of defrauding the polis were killed or exiled. I fail to see how that isn’t an appropriate punishment.

  3. Two years in jail in California would be pretty scary thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown and the liberal State Supreme court. However, I’m assuming that she’s going to jail in a Federal minimal security prison. With that in mind, I agree that Judge Liam O’Grady is an ethical dunce, at least in this case.

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