FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Both the prosecution and the defense have recommended a term of probation in advance of the sentencing hearing for a former FBI Special Agent who reached a plea agreement regarding charges that he destroyed evidence in 2017.
Robert Cessario signed a plea agreement on August 17, 2022, in the Western District of Arkansas Federal Court admitting that he destroyed records pertaining to the federal prosecution of former Arkansas State Senator Jon Woods of Springdale.
In my capacity as a special agent and as part of the investigation, I obtained recordings from a cooperating defendant. I placed these recordings on a government computer that had been issued to me for use in conducting covert operations that would not be traceable to a government computer. I knew that these recordings pertained to the prosecution in United States vs. Woods, et al.
I took the computer to a commercial computer business and paid that company to “wipe” the computer. I personally performed another procedure to “wipe” the computer. I erased the contents of the computer hard drive knowing that the Court had ordered that the computer be submitted for a forensic examination. I did so with the intention of making the contents of the computer’s hard drive unavailable for forensic examination.
I am guilty of the violation alleged.Robert Cessario, August 17 plea agreement
In a December 12, 2022 sentencing memorandum, Cessario’s team suggested a period of one year of unsupervised probation as an appropriate term for sentencing purposes. As supporting documents, the defense attached an “Excellence in Public Awareness” Award that Cessario received in 2009 and multiple “Officer of the Year” awards.
The filing also cited case law showing similar or identical sentences imposed in other cases like Cessario’s.
The prosecution’s filing noted that under advisory guidelines, Cessario’s sentence should include imprisonment for “at least one-half of the minimum term,” but it agreed with the defense’s suggestion of probation.
“The government concludes that a sentence of probation will accomplish the sentencing factors,” it stated, with the added suggestion of a period of home confinement for Cessario “so that the defendant suffers some restriction on his activity as a result of his conduct.”
A group of citizens gathered for a demonstration outside the Fort Smith federal courthouse on January 3, advocating for a harsher sentence to be imposed.
“We want justice to be rendered,” said Connie Davis, one of the protestors in attendance. “We want to make sure that everyone in this country has a fair trial, and that no one in law enforcement is tampering with evidence or doing anything to try to misconstrue the truth of what’s really going on.”
Cessario’s sentencing is scheduled for January 5 in Fort Smith.