A Gaithersburg, Md. attorney and former aide to President George W. Bush was suspended from practicing law in the District of Columbia for one year, a three-judge D.C. Court of Appeals panel ruled Thursday.
Claude Allen was suspended in the District after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft of property under $500.
According to the opinion (PDF), between October 2005 and January 2006, Allen committed three separate thefts at Target stores in Maryland. Allen would purchase items using a credit card and then return to the same store or a nearby store and grab the same item off the shelf to return. In all, Allen pilfered a $525 Bose stereo, a $237 Kodak printer and a $88 RCA stereo. Allen was arrested and later pleaded guilty to the theft of the printer.
The opinion states that Allen “testified that at the time of the thefts, he was an Assistant to the President of the United States for Domestic Policy, advising the president on domestic issues and tasked with leading the White House response to Hurricane Katrina.” A forensic psychiatrist testified that Allen was under a “high state of stress” that impaired his judgment.
The D.C. Bar Counsel asked the hearing committee to rule the conduct involved moral turpitude, arguing that the thefts were “a well thought out and well-executed scheme marked by stealth and deception.”
However, the panel ruled that the actions did not involve moral turpitude.
“Undoubtedly, the offense for which respondent has admitted guilt is serious and his fraudulent conduct breached a lawyer’s essential obligation not to act in a manner ‘involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation,’” the panel wrote in the opinion. “Our holding that the theft did not involve moral turpitude does not diminish the severity of respondent’s misconduct, especially considering the repeated nature of his offenses.”
Bush nominated Allen to the domestic policy post in early 2005. Before that, Allen had served as Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, and as Secretary of Health and Human Resources for the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to a White House press release.
Allen did not respond to a request for comment.