WASHINGTON – A former state magistrate in Portsmouth, Va., pleaded guilty today in the Eastern District of Virginia to accepting bribes from a bail bondsman in exchange for giving him favorable treatment in setting bonds for criminal defendants who had been arrested, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia announced today.
Deborah Clark, 52, of Portsmouth, Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Henry C. Morgan Jr.
Clark was charged in a criminal information filed on April 16, 2012. She faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 when she is sentenced on Oct. 3, 2012.
According to a statement of facts filed with her plea agreement, Clark was a state magistrate in Portsmouth from January 1993 to April 2012. She was authorized to issue arrest and search warrants, and to set bail or order the detention of arrestees. From 2009 through February 2012, she accepted cash and gifts from a bondsman in exchange for referring arrestees to the bondsman as prospective clients and seeking and accepting his advice on the amount of bond to set in particular cases. In addition to regular cash payments, Clark admitted receiving payments for gas, meals and expense money for trips.
Clark is subject to prosecution for bribery under a federal statute because, as a magistrate, she was an agent of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which receives annual benefits in excess of $10,000 under federal programs involving grants and other forms of assistance.
This case was investigated by the FBI. Trial Attorneys Peter Mason and Monique Abrishami of the Public Integrity Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan M. Salsbury and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy E. Cross of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.