Former Wal-Mart Exec Thomas Coughlin Avoids Jail, Resentenced to Home Detention

Fort Smith, Ark., Thomas Coughlin, former vice chairman of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., avoided a prison term on Friday when U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson resentenced him for tax evasion and fraud convictions. The judge said that home detention and probation was sufficient punishment for Coughlin.

An appeals court last year voided Dawson's original sentence as too lenient and sent the case back for resentencing. But Dawson reiterated his original sentence of 27 months' home confinement and five years' probation for Coughlin. The judge added only the 1,500 hours of community service to the sentence he first imposed in 2006, which also included a $50,000 fine, and some $400,000 restitution.

Coughlin pleaded guilty in January 2006 to felony wire fraud and tax-evasion charges for embezzling cash, gift cards and merchandise from Wal-Mart, where he worked for 28 years. He faced more than 28 years in prison and fines of $1.35 million.

Coughlin's attorneys said a heart condition and other ailments meant that a prison sentence would be too dangerous. Dawson last week rejected prosecutors' request that Coughlin be forced to get an independent medical exam before his resentencing.

During the hearing today, Dawson said Coughlin, 58, had medical problems, no criminal record and a history of community service.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Plumlee called a Bureau of Prisons doctor to the stand to testify that the prisons could take adequate care of Coughlin.

Plumlee had no immediate word on whether the government would appeal the sentence again. He said the government first must review a 30-page sentencing memorandum that Dawson wrote elaborating on his reasoning.