An Indiana man who taught those applying for federal jobs how to beat lie-detector tests was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Chad Dixon pleaded guilty in December to wire fraud and obstructing a government proceeding with his business, Polygraph Consultants of America, according to WJLA.
The Seattle Times reports that prosecutors asked a federal judge to send a “strong message” by sentencing the 34-year-old Dixon to prison in their crackdown aimed at deterring other such polygraph instructors. They described Dixon, of Marion, Ind., as a “master of deceit” who taught as many as 100 people — including child molesters, intelligence employees and law-enforcement applicants — how to beat lie detectors.
U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady’s sentence bolsters federal authorities’ pursuit of similar cases. The case sparked a debate over whether the federal government should be pursuing such instructors, given questions about the reliability of lie detectors, which are not accepted by most courts as evidence against criminal defendants.
Dixon’s lawyer, Nina Ginsberg, who sought probation for her client, said teaching people how to lie on a polygraph was protected by the First Amendment. She said Dixon's only crime was explicitly advising prospective federal employees they should lie about having received his training.
"It may be unfortunate for federal law enforcement ... but it is protected speech to tell people how to lie on a polygraph," Ginsberg said.
Judge O’Grady acknowledged “the gray areas” between the constitutional right to discuss the techniques and the crime of teaching someone to lie while undergoing a government polygraph. “There’s nothing unlawful about maybe 95 percent of the business he conducted,” the judge said.
However, O’Grady added that “a sentence of incarceration is absolutely necessary to deter others.”
Anthony Phillips, a prosecutor with the Justice Department noted the real-world consequences of Dixon’s actions were significant. Dixon trained people who paid him $1,000 for a day’s work, including federal contractors seeking to keep top-secret security clearances, Phillips said.
“Mr. Dixon chose to enrich himself by teaching others how to convincingly lie, cheat and steal,” Phillips said.
The sentence handed down on Dixon was less than the 21 months sought by prosecutors.