There's one guilty plea(updated below) so far in the immigration "hit list" case in Utah that energized anti-immigration activists and appalled privacy and civil rights groups.
32-year-old Leah Carson pleaded guilty today to a misdemeanor charge of providing false statements regarding unemployment compensation. Carson was a temporary employee of the Utah Department of Workforce Services last year when she provided information from government records that was used to compile a list of 1,300 people believed by a former colleague to be undocumented immigrants.
The charge resulted from a plea bargain based on the information Carson provided to colleague Teresa Bassett, who is charged with two felony computer crimes.
The charges stem from the distribution of the list to reporters and law enforcement agencies along with an anonymous demand that the people named be deported. The list included personal information, including social security numbers, birth dates and even due dates for pregnant women. Children were also named.
Carson was sentenced to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay a $440 fine. But the jail time was suspended in favor of probation.
The Salt Lake Tribune quotes Carson as saying in court, "I just want to apologize for my actions. They were really stupid,"
"It's pretty egregious conduct. What Leah Carson did was wrong," said assistant attorney general Scott Reed in a story in the Deseret News. "But the ripple effect, the political effect, the ideological impact may be much more profound than the criminal conduct in this case."
Bassett is scheduled to appear in court at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The case was also referred to the Justice Department but Melanie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Utah, tells NPR, "There was an initial federal component in the investigation but the state assumed the investigation and we are not involved."
Update at 7:00 p.m. ET: In a court hearing in Salt Lake City, 59-year-old Teresa Bassett also pleaded guilty but only as a condition to a plea bargain.
As Salt Lake Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle explains,
"Bassett, who has legally changed her name to London Grace Wellington, entered a so-called Alford plea on both counts before Judge Robert Hilder. The plea means Bassett maintains her innocence but is pleading guilty to take advantage of a plea deal offer by prosecutors. 'She believes this was done by someone else and the evidence pointed to her,' said Bassett's attorney, Loni Deland."
Bassett/Wellington will spend three years on probation and must provide 250 hours of community service.