KANSAS CITY, KAN. — A former Linn County attorney was sentenced Thursday, Aug. 29, to one year and a day in prison for stealing more than $75,000 in county-owned electronics and equipment, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release.
John Sutherland, 69, Mound City, who served as county attorney for about 20 years, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of lying to federal investigators in April. The crimes took place sometime prior to January 2009 until Sutherland left office in January 2017.
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 stolen items was an Apple laptop computer, according to the news release.
The defendant also had the county pay for seven cellular phones that were not used to conduct county business, according to the release.
When Federal Bureau of Investigation agents interviewed Sutherland, he denied any wrongdoing and made other false statements, according to the release. In his plea agreement, Sutherland agreed to surrender his license to practice law.
At Thursday’s sentencing, the defendant also was ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution and a fine totaling $11,000.
“The defendant abused the public trust,” U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in the release. “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.”
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.