By Leigh Jones
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former adviser to President George W. Bush who pleaded guilty to stealing merchandise from Target was stripped of his law license for a year in an ethics action on Thursday.
Claude Allen, who served as Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy from 2005-2006, admitted to stealing a printer and a stereo from two Target stores in Maryland, misdemeanor thefts. He was sentenced to two years probation and 40 hours of community service.
The decision by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals on Thursday to strip him of his law license stemmed from a separate attorney ethics action brought by the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel after Allen pleaded guilty.
The court's 12-month suspension was harsher than the 90-day suspension he had previously received in Virginia and Pennsylvania for the same conduct.
In adopting the stiffer penalty, the court found that although Allen's conduct did not amount to moral turpitude, a year suspension was necessary because of the dishonesty, fraud and deceit involved. Moral turpitude generally is considered a gross violation of the standards of moral conduct.
"Our holding that the theft did not involve moral turpitude does not diminish the severity of (Allen's) misconduct, especially considering the repeated nature of his offense," Judge Vanessa Ruiz wrote for the court.
Allen was nominated by Bush in 2003 for a judge's position with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, but withdrew his nomination after opposition arose from Democrats about his conservative politics.
Neither Allen nor his lawyer, Beth Stewart, immediately returned phone calls.
According to the decision, Allen would use a credit card to purchase an item and would leave the store with the item. He would return to the same or a nearby store with the receipt but without the item. He would then take an identical item off of the shelf and "return" it using the original receipt.
He ended up with the item he originally purchased and money from the return of the item he took from the shelf.
Allen, married with four children, testified he shopped after work to provide a buffer between work and home and to relieve stress. An expert testified that Allen qualified as a kleptomaniac and that his "adjustment disorder" was a result of extraordinary stress related to work.
(Reporting by Leigh Jones; Editing by Eileen Daspin and Cynthia Johnston)