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posted by martyb on Thursday December 07 2017, @06:07PM   Printer-friendly
from the so-it-was-not-a-rogue-engineer dept.

"A Volkswagen compliance executive who pleaded guilty in the US for his role in the company's $US30 billion ($40 billion) emissions cheating scandal has been sentenced to seven years in prison."

http://www.theage.com.au/business/vw-executive-sentenced-to-7-years-in-prison-for-diesel-role-20171206-p4yxh0.html

Ars Technica reports:

On Wednesday, a US District judge in Detroit sentenced Oliver Schmidt, a former Volkswagen executive, to seven years in prison for his role in the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal of 2015. Schmidt was also ordered to pay a criminal penalty of $400,000, according to a US Department of Justice (DOJ) press release. The prison term and the fine together represent the maximum sentence that Schmidt could have received under the plea deal he signed in August.

Schmidt, a German citizen who lived in Detroit as an emissions compliance executive for VW, was arrested in Miami on vacation last January. In August, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to making a false statement under the Clean Air Act. Schmidt’s plea deal stated that the former executive could face up to seven years in prison and between $40,000 and $400,000 in fines.

Last week, Schmidt’s attorneys made a last-minute bid requesting a lighter sentence for Schmidt: 40 months of supervised release and a $100,000 fine. Schmidt also wrote a letter to the judge, which surfaced over the weekend, in which the executive said he felt “misused” by his own company and claimed that higher-ranked VW executives coached him on a script to help him lie to a California Air Resources Board (CARB) official.

Also at NYT.


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Thursday December 07 2017, @06:14PM (1 child)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday December 07 2017, @06:14PM (#606911)

    I was involved in a spin-off from our company that one day came to a point where the spin-off executives were starting to coach me on how to present messages to the investors, my response to them was "so: you want me to lie in response to a direct question?" Their response was that I just don't talk to the investors anymore, which was just fine with me.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08 2017, @06:38AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08 2017, @06:38AM (#607114)

      I can relate. I was asked to lie about the power of a database once.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by edIII on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:01PM (18 children)

    by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:01PM (#606942)

    An actual step of progress. 7 years in prison, even in the white collar minimum security resort he will be going to, is progress. I would've like to have seen him in genpop in one of the more medium to high security prisons, but it's a start.

    We know it wasn't just one executive, and we know this isn't as high as it went either. I'll start getting my hopes up again when I see major executives being jailed as often as black men murdered on the streets by cops.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mendax on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:12PM (12 children)

      by mendax (2840) on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:12PM (#606948)

      Seven years is progress but it is not long enough for the crime of poisoning the air with diesel fumes.

      --
      It's really quite a simple choice: Life, Death, or Los Angeles.
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by frojack on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:41PM (1 child)

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:41PM (#606962) Journal

        This guy didn't do the poisoning.

        In August, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and to making a false statement under the Clean Air Act. (The actual crimes of stonewalling US regulators, encouraging document destruction, etc seem to be all wrapped up in that single conspiracy charge).

        The judge seemingly recognized that he knew much more, or played a bigger role, and gave him as much as his plea deal would allow. (Its a pretty stiff sentence for what appears as fairly minor charges - charges for which most people would get a wrist slap).

        The fact that there WAS a plea deal suggests the actionable evidence on him was pretty thin.

        Message sent.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday December 08 2017, @08:42PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday December 08 2017, @08:42PM (#607402)

          Seems like he's trying to use Milgram's defense (we do what we're told....) It's not a legal construct, but Milgram demonstrated very clearly that most people will do very heinous things just because an authority figure tells them to. Interestingly, I think the first of Milgram's objectors was an engineer...

      • (Score: 3, Informative) by edIII on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:45PM (7 children)

        by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:45PM (#606963)

        I dunno. Watched a documentary about time in prison once. 10 years sounds like justice, but when you actually see what 10 years is? I was left thinking that even though it sounded low to us on the outside, that it's actually much worse once you're there. 10 years might as well be an eternity in prison. 20 years is pretty much taking all the good life out of you anyways, and when you get out you don't even recognize the world. If you're unlucky enough to become some guy's husband, well, prison is going to seem like it lasts forever. Some marriages don't even last 10 years ;)

        As much as I dislike hell bound executive scum, 10 years is a lot of time. I certainly don't think they need more than that.

        • (Score: 2) by arslan on Thursday December 07 2017, @10:33PM (5 children)

          by arslan (3462) on Thursday December 07 2017, @10:33PM (#607019)

          Ummm not familiar with the different prisons in the US, but what TV has taught me was that there are different types? If true and he's not going to a max sec. prison then 7 years with early parole/release for good behavior isn't necessarily all that bad? I mean Martha Stewart can do it...

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by edIII on Thursday December 07 2017, @11:47PM (3 children)

            by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07 2017, @11:47PM (#607047)

            It really does depend on where. I wouldn't sentence him to a Peruvian prison because that is about as bad as death. Very close to that movie with Ray Liotta trying to escape an island.

            If it's a resort country club like Martha Stewart went to? Yeah, 7 years ain't that bad. For what he did, it's appropriate. What I don't like is some guy getting 10 years for stealing for a hamburger to eat, of which he was remorseful. 1 year in prison is reasonable for that.

            Now the men who've stolen billions from hard working people? LIFE.

            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday December 08 2017, @08:46PM (2 children)

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday December 08 2017, @08:46PM (#607409)

              I don't think those who steal billions should get life, I think they should get debt... forfeiture of all assets and garnishment of all wages above poverty level for whatever their term of punishment is, then let them rebuild their fortune from 0 after they're done. Cruel and unusual? Not if they've done similar damage to multiple people, or even lesser damage to many many people.

              • (Score: 2) by edIII on Saturday December 09 2017, @12:13AM (1 child)

                by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 09 2017, @12:13AM (#607522)

                Sorry, but I do disagree on this one. 10 years is a lot of time, usually more than enough for most crimes short of the truly heinous ones. In this case it isn't about rehabilitation, because I don't think they can be. I consider a billionaire who made his fortune by stealing to have harmed so many, quite reasonably millions, that the level of pain today in the poor and middle class requires a life in prison.

                Billionaires and stock holders have brought our society to the brink of collapse, all for avarice. I consider them the most dangerous, the most reprehensible, and quite often, the least remorseful. See the piece of shit coal mine owner telling his employees to be anti-union, Pro Trump, and things will get better, while exhibiting a truly astonishing lack of self awareness.

                As for the debt? Let them enjoy the chain gain [youtube.com].

                • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Saturday December 09 2017, @01:11AM

                  by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday December 09 2017, @01:11AM (#607538)

                  If the crime is about theft, and they cannot make full restitution to all who were stolen from, then I say give them a debt sentence.

                  Lockup is for people who are physically dangerous to others. White collar crime should be settled with treble damage restitution.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08 2017, @12:15AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08 2017, @12:15AM (#607052)

            I know something about prisons thanks to my own unfortunate personal experience. He will not be going to a maximum security prison. Most likely he will be in a Club Fed. I haven't seen the sentencing document but I assume he'll also have to spend at least 3 years on "supervised release" after he's released. He won't be seeing Germany for quite a while. And because he is a felon he will be barred from entering the United States again once he finally returns to Germany. Oh, and there are no conjugal visits in federal prisons.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday December 08 2017, @12:51PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday December 08 2017, @12:51PM (#607165)

          As long as 10 years really is 10 years and not early release for good behavior in 2.

          It seems to me like parole is the mechanism whereby the public gets its pound of flesh when the issue is hot, then when everybody has forgotten about it they kick the perp back on the street to save space in the jails. Which is why high profilers like Charles Manson do their full time.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08 2017, @05:16AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08 2017, @05:16AM (#607099)

        ...and all the OTHER car makers, USA ones included? As usual the authorities have picked a scapegoat (VW) and they appointed a fall guy (this poor chap).

        • (Score: 2) by edIII on Friday December 08 2017, @05:48AM

          by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 08 2017, @05:48AM (#607106)

          All of the corrupt executives, everywhere, wherever and whenever it is possible to hold them accountable and address the damage. 100% of them all.

          As for the fall guys, I honestly wonder if they're not promised a very nice retirement once they're outside of the U.S again. Just a few is suspicious since I don't think it's possible to keep the corruption going for that long, with that many other engineers and people, without more top level brass knowing about it.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday December 08 2017, @05:02AM (4 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday December 08 2017, @05:02AM (#607095)

      Problem being: we've got tens of millions of black men on the streets in the line of fire, and only hundreds of corrupt top level executives, and the execs can afford good lawyers whereas the men on the street can't really wear body armor all the time.

      • (Score: 2) by edIII on Friday December 08 2017, @05:44AM (3 children)

        by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 08 2017, @05:44AM (#607105)

        Flip the script then.

        Tens of millions of black men on the streets protesting while the corrupt top level executives have to wear body armor all the time, at least in public, outside of Trump's golf clubs :)

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday December 08 2017, @12:47PM (2 children)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday December 08 2017, @12:47PM (#607164)

          Don't kid yourself, the really corrupt top level execs already do wear body armor - when not literally, then effectively in the way they shield their daily movements from public access.

          • (Score: 2) by edIII on Friday December 08 2017, @08:12PM (1 child)

            by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 08 2017, @08:12PM (#607381)

            Uh huh. What they forget is that somebody is still taking out the trash, mopping the floors, cooking their food, etc. Have you seen Fight Club? There is a wonderful scene where Brad Pitt is explaining to the police chief or governor (can't recall) pretty much the same concept.

            “Remember this. The people you're trying to step on, we're everyone you depend on. We're the people who do your laundry and cook your food and serve your dinner. We make your bed. We guard you while you're asleep. We drive the ambulances. We direct your call. We are cooks and taxi drivers and we know everything about you. We process your insurance claims and credit card charges. We control every part of your life.

            We are the middle children of history, raised by television to believe that someday we'll be millionaires and movie stars and rock stars, but we won't. And we're just learning this fact. So don't fuck with us.”
            -- Tyler Durden

            *They can't hide their movements*

            Why? They're weak men that couldn't survive 24 hours in the wilderness. Constantly surrounded by others to do all their work for them, including taking care of themselves and their property. You put enough people's faces into the dirt under your boot heel, they will rise up.

            *I* can hide my movements.

            Why? I'm small. I take care of myself. No other man or woman is required for 98% of what I do. I have almost nothing left (by intent), and can pick up and move instantly. No bank accounts, or 401ks, no Facebook feeds, no social media. No cooks, janitors, cleaners, etc. In short, I don't have an entourage around me of exploited wage slaves.

            THAT is the real lesson. If all you did was surround yourself in wage slaves, you are NOT safe from them. We are all wage slaves now, waking up to the fact that hard work never meant shit, that education never meant shit, the whole game was rigged, and 90% of your production was stolen upwards.

            LOL. They better hope you are right and the hoi polloi are inept, apathetic, and unable to deal with them. Instant that changes, their lives are going to be very similar to somebody trying to escape a volcano.

            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday December 08 2017, @08:40PM

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday December 08 2017, @08:40PM (#607400)

              It's clearly working for Der Orangen Furher... and the big ones like Charlie Koch, and even non-assholes like Sergey Brin, have dedicated security staff who do nothing but analyze and optimize their employer's security profile - vetting people who have access to their food, and even sweeping their routes to check for risk tells. Sergey makes his security chief nuts by rollerskating to work, but that's the balance - live life and expose yourself a bit, or crawl deep in a hole. I think the Koch brothers probably have a private subway system... not saying you couldn't put a bullet in the Gipper if you really tried, but it's getting much harder lately.

  • (Score: 2) by iWantToKeepAnon on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:20PM

    by iWantToKeepAnon (686) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:20PM (#606952) Homepage Journal
    "US District judge in Detroit" ... wait, he couldn't get a change of venue? Of course Detroit is going to hit him with the max.
    --
    "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." -- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:21PM (2 children)

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07 2017, @07:21PM (#606954) Journal

    coached him on a script to help him lie to a California Air Resources Board

    And this is your punishment for taking their advice.

    You roll on them, and they will get their prison time as well.

    James Liang (also arrested in the US) is serving 40 months. He was an engineer in Germany that moved to the US. Some guy named Yan in South Korea also is in the slammer. The sentence lengths are escalating as they go up the ranks.

    But the problem is that VW management is mostly in Germany, and Germany doesn't have any appetite to go after these guys, or extradite them. I suspect none of those guys have any plans to visit Disney World any time soon.

    So all the US can get their hands on are those that happen to be caught in the US having committed some lie in the US.

    --
    No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 2) by Whoever on Friday December 08 2017, @06:27AM

      by Whoever (4524) on Friday December 08 2017, @06:27AM (#607110) Journal

      I am guessing that those higher-up will need to be very careful about how they travel. The USA knows who is on most passenger manifests, so many commercial flights could be dangerous (the plane might develop a "technical problem" requiring it to be diverted and land in a country with a USA-friendly extradition treaty).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08 2017, @03:49PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08 2017, @03:49PM (#607230)

      If they have evidence, for crimes also punishable in Germany, the US can ask for extradition. It's that simple.
      However, I doubt it will just happen like that, if extradition is requested you can count on it being part of some bigger political deal.

  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07 2017, @08:21PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07 2017, @08:21PM (#606974)

    These 'law' people (american judges and others) have no honor. The guy was on vacation to their country, spending his money and they arrest him and send him to prison for eternity. Whatever happened to honor. This reminds me of how the jewish/khazar state in the middle east assassinates other countries' citizens in third countries. Quite similar these two countries.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07 2017, @10:09PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 07 2017, @10:09PM (#607011)

    I could be wrong, but in previous stories wasn't this guy referred to as an "engineer" rather than an "executive"? Or was he an "executive engineer"? Or was that someone else? Where's my coffee? Who are you and what are you doing with that duct tape!?

    • (Score: 2) by arslan on Thursday December 07 2017, @10:36PM

      by arslan (3462) on Thursday December 07 2017, @10:36PM (#607020)

      Here is oz, our fresh grads (in tech at least) start out as executives to work their up to managers and then directors and finally one of the CxOs.

      So I'm reading this like they've jailed a peon...

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by MichaelDavidCrawford on Thursday December 07 2017, @11:03PM

    by MichaelDavidCrawford (2339) Subscriber Badge <mdcrawford@gmail.com> on Thursday December 07 2017, @11:03PM (#607032) Homepage Journal

    How many lost their jobs in 2008 because of Wall Street? Why aren't the bankers in the slammer?

  • (Score: 3, Touché) by Geezer on Friday December 08 2017, @01:17AM (1 child)

    by Geezer (511) on Friday December 08 2017, @01:17AM (#607061)

    From TFS: Schmidt also wrote a letter to the judge, which surfaced over the weekend, in which the executive said he felt “misused” by his own company and claimed that higher-ranked VW executives coached him on a script to help him lie to a California Air Resources Board (CARB) official.

    He was only following orders!

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08 2017, @10:09AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08 2017, @10:09AM (#607142)

      I did not have sexual relations with that woman

      We came. We saw. He died. Hahahahhaa

      One of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror. (GWB)

      They did not lose their jobs, and were not sent to prison and were not hanged from their necks until they died.

      They were just doing their jobs, you know.

      "mission accomplished" I guess.

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