A case that has sparked speculation appeared to be resolved on Tuesday in a federal courtroom in Washington D.C. Imran Awan -- an immigrant from Pakistan who had provided IT services to Democrats in Congress -- avoided serving time in jail. During a hearing on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan sentenced Awan to just three months of supervised release plus time served. The judge, while citing “unfounded allegations” against Awan, did not impose a fine. Prosecutors dropped fraud charges against Awan's wife, Hina Alvi. Awan emigrated to the U.S. with his family as a teen.

Awan pleaded guilty in July to making a false statement on a loan application. On Tuesday, Awan gave an emotion-filled statement to the court, saying: “I promise you this second chance will not go to waste.” Even while federal guidelines recommended a sentence of up to six months in jail and two to five years of supervised release, prosecutors did not advocate jail time for Awan. Also, they did not oppose a noncustodial sentence.

Because Awan had access to sensitive and possibly classified information because of his access to computer systems at the House of Representatives, speculation had swirled since last year when he was arrested at Dulles International Airport before trying to board a flight to Pakistan. He had served Democrats in Congress, including Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and provided tech support. At a plea hearing last month, prosecutors said that they had "uncovered no evidence" that Awan "violated federal law with respect to the House computer systems."

However, Awan admitted that he had sought to obtain home equity lines of credit from the Congressional Federal Credit Union in December 2016 by giving false information. Awan’s attorney, Christopher J. Gowen, requested in a memo that his client should be sentenced only to time served plus a fine, citing “the costs incurred by Imran throughout this case, the nature of the offense, his substantial cooperation, the positions taken by the United States and the presentence investigator, and the conduct of several government officials, including the President of the United States.”

President Donald Trump has referred to Awan several times as “the Pakistani mystery man.”  “Trump is not the only sitting government official who has indulged in false or outrageously speculative and racially-tinged attacks on Imran for political benefit,” Gowen wrote in the court memorandum, in a reference to Republican Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, and Ron DeSantis of Florida.

In April, Chief Administrative Officer Philip G. Kiko of the House of Representatives said that the body’s inspector general had “discovered evidence of procurement fraud and irregularities” and “numerous violations of House security policies” committed by Awan and persons working with him. Originally, Awan and other IT aides working for House Democrats had been investigated for several months because of concerns over their access to computer systems, alleged theft of equipment, among others. Forty witnesses were interviewed by the government, which also seized the House Democratic Caucus server and other computer devices, questioned Awan, and reviewed electronic messaging between employees of the House. However, prosecutors said that despite a “thorough investigation of those allegations,” it found that no federal charges were warranted. The case was investigated by the U.S. Capitol Police and the FBI.
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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