TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Big Lie: Professor Who Fabricated Lateral Offer From University Of Minnesota To Get $5,000 Raise Reaches Plea Deal

McNaughtonFollowing up on my previous post:  Chronicle of Higher Education, The Big Lie

A professor schemed to get a raise and win his department’s respect. Instead, he wrecked his career.

The chemistry professor and his wife argued often in those days, as their marriage was coming to an end and a custody battle brewed over their two young children. Then, one summer night, things got so heated that the police were called to intervene.

Brian and Stacey McNaughton had bought their single-family home in Fort Collins, Colo., six years earlier for $525,000. It was the sort of place, situated on an oversize corner lot in a neighborhood filled with doctors and lawyers, that projected the kind of solid middle-class status that the couple had achieved after years of study. Brian McNaughton, once a first-generation college student, was on the tenure track at Colorado State University, and his wife was a nurse anesthetist.

But all of that risked being torn asunder because of the big lie — a lie that they shared, and that Stacey McNaughton was now threatening to expose. She would recount to the police how she had signaled plans to call her husband’s boss, reveal his deception, and derail his career. The couple struggled for control of a phone, and the professor pleaded with his wife to reconsider, before Stacey McNaughton ran out the back door screaming for help. She jumped a fence and took refuge with some neighbors who were having a backyard campfire.

On that night and many thereafter, Brian McNaughton feared that his wife would tell people at Colorado State how he had fabricated a job offer from another university. It was a simple scheme, one designed to earn him the kind of money and respect that is often so elusive for early-career professors. As McNaughton had hoped, the fake letter spurred a counteroffer, forcing his dean and department chair to reconsider what he might be worth.

ot long before, Stacey McNaughton had started secretly recording all of the couple’s conversations. In audio from that summer night, which she shared with an officer, she can be heard saying, “You wrote that letter, Brian — that lie. I told you don’t submit it.”

But he had done it, and there was no turning back.

Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Who Forged Offer Letter Reaches Plea Deal:

Brian McNaughton, the former Colorado State University professor who was charged with a felony for fabricating a job offer to secure a pay raise, reached a plea deal this week that will allow his case to be dismissed in a year if he remains law abiding and completes 100 hours of community service.

Under the agreement, McNaughton pleaded guilty to attempting to influence a public servant, a crime punishable by up to six years in prison. He was granted a deferred sentence, however, making him eligible to withdraw his guilty plea in a year if he complies with the terms of the deal. In addition to community service, McNaughton must complete a “cognitive thinking class.”

USA Today, CSU Professor Who Forged Offer Letter Takes Plea Deal to Avoid Criminal Record

Legal Education | Permalink


don't stick in crazy

Posted by: Anon | Sep 16, 2018 4:58:57 PM

Much too light a sentence. Another example of overleniency for white collar criminals.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Sep 18, 2018 7:58:23 PM