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Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Retires in Wake of DUI Arrest

by Brandon Sample

It is a familiar pattern for many prominent public officials. Get caught breaking the law, express remorse for your actions, and then tender your resignation. But make sure to claim that your resignation had nothing to do with your wrongdoing.

That is what happened with Harley G. Lappin, 55, the recently-former director of the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

On February 26, 2011, at 3:59 a.m., Lappin was pulled over for DUI by the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland. Lappin was less than a mile from his house in Annapolis, Maryland when he was stopped. According to a police report, his eyes were bloodshot, he had slurred speech and alcohol on his breath, and he failed sobriety tests.

In addition to being charged with DUI, Lappin was charged with reckless driving, negligent driving and failing to obey the instructions of a traffic-control device.
Approximately a month later, Lappin informed the BOP that he was retiring. In a memo sent to all BOP employees, he expressed remorse for his actions.

“I recently allowed a lapse in my judgment to occur, giving rise to potential embarrassment to the agency, the Department of Justice, and my position of Director. I was arrested for driving under the influence,” Lappin said. “It is with great humility that I offer my sincere apology to each and every one of you for failing to lead by example.”

Despite the timing of Lappin’s resignation, BOP spokesperson Traci Billingsley insisted that Lappin’s decision to retire had nothing to do with his DUI arrest.

Attorney General Eric Holder expressed his support for Lappin despite the arrest. Holder said Lappin had served with great integrity and professionalism over his long career with the BOP, and indicated that Lappin had provided “invaluable insights” on ways to improve prisoner rehabilitation and address prison overcrowding.

Lappin was appointed director of the BOP in 2003 by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Lappin’s promotion at the time was largely seen as a reward for his handling of the execution of Timothy McVeigh, the convicted bomber of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Lappin was warden at the federal death row unit in Terre Haute, Indiana when McVeigh was executed.

Lappin had worked for the BOP for 26 years, starting in 1985 as a case manager at the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas. His retirement was effective May 7, 2011, and a court hearing in his DUI case is scheduled for June 16.


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