Former Linn County Attorney Sentenced for Thefts of Public Property
KANSAS CITY, KAN. – The former Linn County Attorney was sentenced today to a year and a day in prison for stealing $75,000 worth of electronics and equipment that belonged to the county, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said. In addition, the defendant was ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution and a fine totaling $11,000.
John Sutherland, 69, Mound City, who served as county attorney for approximately 20 years before leaving the job in January 2017, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of lying to federal investigators. The crimes took place from sometime prior to January 2009 until Sutherland left office.
“The defendant abused the public trust,” McAllister said. “He used his elected position as county attorney to steal more than $75,000 from the Linn County taxpayers who had placed their trust in him as the county’s top law enforcement official. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were approximately 9,750 people in Linn County in 2018. The median household income was $46,576. That means the defendant stole property worth far more than most Linn County residents earn in a year.”
According to the government’s sentencing memo, the defendant had the county pay for seven cellular phones that were not used to conduct county business.
In his plea, Sutherland admitted that on Feb. 6, 2019, FBI agents found 13 items stolen from Linn County when they searched Sutherland’s office at the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office. At the time, Sutherland was working as an Assistant District Attorney. One of the items was a stolen Apple laptop computer.
When FBI agents interviewed him, Sutherland denied any wrongdoing and made other false statements. For instance, he claimed that an Apple TV 64 GB video-streaming device the county purchased for about $220 had been destroyed. FBI agents found the device intact at Sutherland’s residence.
In his plea agreement, Sutherland agreed to surrender his license to practice law.
McAllister commended the FBI, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tris Hunt and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Oakley for their work on the case. McAllister assisted with the prosecution of the case.