Former BigLaw Associate Jailed for Lying in Mueller Investigation

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 04, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Sometimes, you just have to lie -- like when a wide-eyed child asks, "Is the Easter Bunny hiding eggs?"

Alex Van Der Zwaan, however, picked the worst time to lie. He lied about his communications during the biggest investigation to hit the White House since Watergate.

Van Der Zwaan is the first person to be sentenced in the Russia affair. But why did it have to be a lawyer? And what do Easter eggs have to do with anything?

Plea Deal

A former associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Van Der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. He asked for probation, but the judge gave him 30 days.

"We're not talking about a traffic ticket," Judge Amy Berman Jackson said.

In addition, the judge ordered him to pay $20,000 and to serve two months probation. He could have been sentenced up to six months, but he cooperated -- after he lied -- with the prosecution.

Van Der Zwaan had lied about communications with "Person A," an unidentified person believed to be a former Russian intelligence agent, and Rick Gates, President Trump's former campaign manager.

Hidden Messages

In a plea deal, Van Der Zwaan waived his right to more information from the government about the investigation. The Justice Department said it "serves manifold legitimate criminal-justice interests."

That's where the lawyer and the Easter egg come together. Van Der Zwaan lied, he admitted in his sentencing memo, because he was hiding the fact that he recorded conversations with Gates and Person A -- the former Russian spy -- who told him the Ukrainian government might file charges against him and his firm.

To be sure, it's a complicated affair. But so is explaining the story of the Easter Bunny.

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