A former Linn County attorney entered a guilty plea Wednesday in U.S. District Court to stealing electronics, equipment and as many as 500 other items from the county government and lying about his criminal conduct to FBI agents, federal prosecutors said.
John Sutherland, 68, of Mound City, agreed to pay $75,000 in restitution and to surrender his license to practice law under a plea agreement related to charges of mail fraud and lying to federal investigators.
The fraud count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, while the false-statement count carries a penalty of up to five years of incarceration.
He was Linn County attorney for about 20 years, leaving that job in January 2017. The U.S. attorney's office said Sutherland engaged in criminal activity from "sometime prior to January 2009 and continuing" until Sutherland left the position after losing a re-election campaign for county attorney.
U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a statement Sutherland stole 350 to 500 items from Linn County.
Sutherland admitted in his plea filed in Kansas City, Kan., that 13 items, including an Apple computer, that had been stolen from the county were discovered by FBI agents during a search of Sutherland's office at the Wyandotte County District Attorney's office. At that time, Sutherland was employed as an assistant district attorney.
When FBI agents interviewed Sutherland, McAllister said, he denied wrongdoing and made other false statements. He told agents an Apple TV 64 GB video-streaming device the county purchased for about $220 had been destroyed, but investigators located the device intact at Sutherland's home.
Sutherland gave some of the stolen items to his adult children, federal officials said.
In 2015, Sutherland rejected assertions by the Linn County sheriff that decisions by the county attorney's office not to prosecute Jim Brownback, a brother of then-Gov. Sam Brownback, were allegedly made to avoid upsetting the governor. Sutherland had sought appointment by Brownback as a district court judge.