FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A former FBI Special Agent will not serve any prison time after pleading guilty to destroying evidence involved in a federal case.
Robert Cessario was sentenced in the Western District of Arkansas federal court in Fort Smith on January 5. After a plea agreement and the submission of sentencing memorandums by the defense and the government, Judge P.K. Holmes III issued a sentence of three years probation for Cessario.
Cessario will be confined to his home for the first six months of that term. He was also fined $25,000, with a mandatory procedural $100 fee added as well.
Cessario signed a plea agreement on August 17, 2022, admitting that he destroyed records on a computer hard drive. The hard drive he destroyed contained records pertaining to the federal prosecution of former Arkansas State Senator Jon Woods of Springdale.
During the January 5 sentencing hearing, Judge Holmes noted the severity of the offense, but that was tempered by the fact that a prior federal hearing on the matter determined that “there was no prejudice to the defendants” in the related case because they elected not to use the deleted evidence.
“No exculpatory evidence was deleted,” the judge added.
Upon accepting the terms of the plea agreement, Judge Holmes stated that his goal was to arrive at a sentence that “reflects the seriousness” of the offense and that is also “fair and reasonable.” He also noted that U.S. sentencing guidelines are advisory.
The level of Cessario’s offense was lowered due to his lack of any prior criminal history and his acceptance of responsibility for the crime.
When all this happened, I had an extreme lack of judgment. I apologize to my friends, family, and colleagues. It was a mistake and I have learned from that mistake. I am sorry.Former FBI Special Agent Robert Cessario, January 5 sentencing hearing
The judge also took into consideration Cessario’s career of over 17 years in the FBI, during which he “performed well.” Cessario also has “serious health issues” and is a single parent to two teenage sons.
“Nobody can say with a straight face that he has a history of criminal tendencies,” said defense attorney John Everett. He also noted that Cessario’s life has already been “dramatically” impacted by the conviction, which has reportedly made his client “unhirable” in the field of law enforcement.
Judge Holmes called the amount of $25,000 “probably the most significant fine I have imposed in a case against an individual.”
Cessario cannot leave his home for any reason without authorization from the probation office during the first six months of his sentence. He is also prohibited from buying or owning a firearm, which is a standard condition of probation, and he must submit to a search of his person or property at any time.
A citizen advocate for justice, Connie Davies, said no law enforcement officer should be above the law.
“I just want the right thing done because it seems as though the rule of law is thrown out the window, that there are people that are above the law in certain cases and there’s no equal justice,” Davies said.
We reached out to Cessario’s defense attorney for comment, but have not heard back yet.