Posted: March 10, 2005
THE REALITY OF PRISON ENDS ROGER BLEVINS' LIFE OF FANTASY
By Celia Cohen
Roger D. Blevins III is going to prison for three years and a month, the top of the scale he could get, for stealing $412,000 in campaign money from U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lavish expensive gifts and attention on people he met after clicking on a voyeuristic Web site.
Blevins, a political functionary who held a series of low-level Democratic Party posts, including assistant treasurer for Biden, appeared Thursday for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Kent A. Jordan in the Boggs Federal Building in Wilmington.
It was also the first time there was even a sketchy explanation, given by Assistant U.S. Attorney April M. Byrd, of what Blevins did and why -- how he became the highest bidder in an Internet auction for a romantic partner and then needed money to live the high life of a "sugar daddy."
Jordan came down hard on Blevins, saying about his crime, "At a minimum it is about ego gratification, and it involved a breach of trust."
Blevins, 34, of Elsmere, was facing from two-and-a-half years to three years and a month in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, and Jordan gave him the maximum and also ordered Blevins to repay $402,000, the amount of money that has not been recovered. The judge waived any fine, saying Blevins had no way to pay one.
Jordan let Blevins stay free until at least March 24 to attend to a family matter.
"I don't think you did this because you wanted to do something bad to Sen. Biden, but the reality is, you did do something bad to Sen. Biden," Jordan said.
The judge also noted that the money Blevins took was campaign contributions, given by people freely participating in the democratic process. "Your theft wasn't just the theft of money. It was the theft of the voice of the people," Jordan said.
Before the sentence was handed down, Blevins read a brief statement, calling his behavior "uncharacteristically stupid." He said he was the only person to blame and asked his family for forgiveness.
Blevins pleaded guilty in February 2004 to two felony counts of interstate transfer of stolen property and making a false statement by filing a phony campaign finance report to cover up what he was doing.
His sentencing was one of many that were delayed until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of federal sentencing guidelines, eventually determining in January to treat them as advisory.
Blevins was quiet and composed, although he appeared to flush after he heard his sentence. His mother was in the courtroom, which was largely empty otherwise. No one from Biden's staff attended the proceeding.
It was a grim ending to a bizarre episode. Blevins had never been more than an unremarkable, if familiar figure in Democratic Party circles, someone who made do with $20,000-a-year political jobs in a bargain-basement life.
He was one of those oddballs who nevertheless can find a home in politics simply by being useful and in Blevins' case also by displaying an aptitude for computers. If there was anything noticeable about him, it was his tendency to spin tall tales about himself.
The computer skills and the self-exaggeration apparently caught up with him.
According to Byrd, the federal prosecutor, Blevins sampled a come-hither Internet site and fell for someone auctioning himself off.
"Who was the highest bidder? The defendant. Too bad he didn't use his own money," Byrd said.
Blevins eventually met three individuals separately and became a big shot to them by siphoning off Biden's campaign treasury, buying presents like a Porsche and a $1,500 ring from Tiffany's and frequently taking trips to Florida to see them and indulge in his secret life, Byrd said.
"This case is about two things -- greed and personal gratification," Byrd said. "He became a sugar daddy."
The fantasy came to an end, Byrd said, with an anonymous telephone tip, apparently after a spat with one of the individuals Blevins was seeing.
Penny Marshall, the federal public defender who represented Blevins, argued unsuccessfully that Blevins needed counseling, not incarceration, because his crimes were rooted in an abusive childhood with an alcoholic father.
"For some special reason, he did not like his son. How does a father break the arm of his own child? That's the kind of father he had, constantly ridiculing him," Marshall said.
Blevins also was beset by other children who teased him and chased him and made him feel that he did not belong, Marshall said.
Years later the Internet brought Blevins a fantasy world of acceptance. "He felt like he was important," Marshall said. "It was impossible to stop."
The judge was sympathetic but un-persuaded. "This is a sad case, indeed a case filled with pathos," Jordan said. "This case is not really one in which I find credible the assertion that you just couldn't help yourself."