WASHINGTON — An Indiana man who taught sex offenders and aspiring federal law enforcement officers how to cheat their court- or job-imposed lie detector tests was sentenced to eight months in prison Friday — a somewhat muted victory for authorities hoping to send a stern warning to those who want to beat polygraphs.
Federal prosecutors in Virginia had asked that Chad Dixon, 34, spend at least 21 months in prison, saying in court Friday that he “chose to enrich himself by teaching others how to lie, cheat and steal.” But federal district Judge Liam O’Grady seemed somewhat sympathetic to Dixon’s argument that merely teaching someone how to trick a lie detector is protected as a form of free speech, telling attorneys at one point, “There’s nothing unlawful about maybe 95 percent of the business he conducted.”
O’Grady, though, rejected Dixon’s request for no prison time, saying that Dixon “went into this business for greed” and his teachings “potentially caused a great deal of damage.” He noted that Dixon — who pleaded guilty in December to wire fraud and obstruction of an agency proceeding — went too far when he helped undercover agents learn to cheat the polygraph after they told him they intended to lie as they applied for federal jobs.
Choking back tears, Dixon, an electrical worker, told O’Grady he wished he could “turn back the hands of time.”
Prosecutors accused Dixon of teaching what they call “polygraph countermeasures” to as many as 100 people — among them convicted sex offenders and those applying for federal law enforcement jobs. Inspired by Doug Williams, a former police polygraphist in Oklahoma who preaches about beating the test, Dixon would charge as much $1,000 for six to eight hours of hands-on training and would travel across the country to meet his customers, prosecutors said. He advertised online, and his instruction was sometimes as simple as “relax and breathe normally.”
Nina Ginsberg, Dixon’s attorney, said his only real crime was encouraging customers to lie on federal polygraph tests about whether they’d received countermeasures training. She said Dixon tried to avoid training people who might pose a danger.
“This is not an evil man,” Ginsberg said. “This is a very decent man who made bad choices in the context of very ill-defined law.”