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posted by martyb on Thursday December 07, @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: 3, Insightful) by mendax on Thursday December 07, @07:12PM (12 children)

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

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

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by frojack on Thursday December 07, @07:41PM (1 child)

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07, @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.

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    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday December 08, @08:42PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday December 08, @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, @07:45PM (7 children)

    by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07, @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, @10:33PM (5 children)

      by arslan (3462) on Thursday December 07, @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, @11:47PM (3 children)

        by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 07, @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, @08:46PM (2 children)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday December 08, @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, @12:13AM (1 child)

            by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 09, @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, @01:11AM

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday December 09, @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, @12:15AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08, @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, @12:51PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday December 08, @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, @05:16AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 08, @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, @05:48AM

      by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Friday December 08, @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.