- The Washington Times - Friday, December 20, 2019

Mark Tolson, a former FBI analyst, was sentenced Friday in connection with criminally accessing the email account of conservative lobbyist and conspiracy theorist Jack Burkman.

Tolson, 60, was sentenced to spend seven days behind bars and pay a $500 fine during a hearing held in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. He pleaded guilty in September to a single misdemeanor charge of computer fraud and abuse and had faced a maximum sentence of one-year imprisonment.

Addressing U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, Tolson said he accessed Mr. Burkman’s email account without permission in an attempt to stop the lobbyist from smearing Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who led the special counsel’s investigation into the 2016 U.S. presidential election, multiple outlets at the sentencing hearing reported.

Tolson admitted that he accessed the emails in October 2018 after Mr. Burkman announced plans to hold a press conference in which Mr. Mueller would be accused of sexual misconduct.

“I did what I did to try to protect Director Mueller, who can protect himself,” Tolson told the court, The Washington Post reported. “I’m terribly sorry.”

“It was because of the press conference, your honor,” Tolson told the court, Politico reported.

Mr. Burkman had announced prior to the press conference last year that he would “reveal the first of special counsel Robert Mueller’s sex assault victims.” Tolson’s wife had access to Mr. Burkman’s email credentials at the time as a result of work she had done for him months earlier, and he admittedly used that information to access the account and snoop around for several minutes.

Tolson unsuccessfully offered to provide the password to a news reporter before ultimately notifying the FBI about his behavior and subsequently having his security clearance suspended and losing his position, according to court documents.

“This is actually a very serious offense,” U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema told Tolson, Politico reported. “You’re lucky. Your wife is lucky. The government could have prosecuted her as well.”

“You can’t just rummage through other people’s accounts,” she added, according to the outlet. “You had to have known better.”

Reacting on Twitter to the sentencing, Mr. Burkman tweeted: “What a disgrace our judicial system is. Mark Tolson gets 7 days. Can you imagine the jail time he would have gotten if I were a liberal?”

Mr. Burkman ultimately held the press conference about Mr. Mueller in November 2018, but a witness he promised never materialized and the allegations were widely rejected.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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