A former aide to Rep. Josh Gottheimer has been sentenced to four years of probation for sending a bizarre series of hoax letters last year, including some that falsely claimed that the New Jersey Democrat had resigned his post.
Patrick Sheehan, who worked in Gottheimer’s district office in Newton, N.J., pleaded guilty in May to a rare federal misdemeanor charge of misusing a congressional seal. The crime carries a maximum punishment of six months in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
During a hearing conducted via Zoom on Tuesday, Newark-based U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hammer imposed no jail time or fine on Sheehan, but ordered him to serve four years on probation and pay $6,688 in restitution, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
One of the letters obtained by POLITICO was addressed to another New Jersey politician and indicated that Gottheimer was admitting to an inappropriate relationship with a colleague and had decided to quit. The letter appeared to be signed by the lawmaker and was printed on his official stationery.
Gottheimer issued a statement at the time calling the claims in the letters “completely untrue” and saying he was the victim of a “disgusting smear campaign.”
Sheehan entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors in May to resolve the case, court records show. In the agreement, he admitted forging letters from another Gottheimer staffer making false claims about the congressman. The other employee, who was not named in court records, did not approve those letters, prosecutors said.
"Mr. Sheehan accepts the judgment of the court," Sheehan's attorney, Ruth Liebesman, said in a statement to POLITICO. "He is grateful to the US Attorney's office for its consideration in this matter."
Matt Friedman contributed to this report.