U.S. prosecutors are seeking a seven-year prison sentence for a Volkswagen senior manager who pleaded guilty in the automaker’s diesel emissions scandal. Oliver Schmidt will be sentenced Wednesday in Detroit federal court. In a court filing this week, the Justice Department said he followed a ”script of deception” while VW was using sophisticated software to cheat emissions rules on nearly 600,000 vehicles. Schmidt led VW’s engineering and environmental office in Michigan from 2012 to early 2015. Defense lawyers are recommending that his sentence not exceed 40 months in prison, the punishment that was given to VW engineer James Liang. The government, however, said there’s a key distinction: Liang cooperated with investigators while Schmidt did not. The diesel vehicles were programmed to turn on pollution controls during testing and off while on the road.
In 2015, according to the government, Schmidt talked with California regulators and concealed the software tricks while offering ”bogus technical explanations” of any differences in emissions. Prosecutors said Schmidt obstructed justice by getting rid of documents that were relevant to the U.S. investigation and giving false information to agents. In a letter to U.S. District Judge Sean Cox, Schmidt said he regrets not telling the truth to California regulators. He said he feels ”misused by my own company in the Diesel scandal or `Dieselgate.”’
”I just want to repeat how sorry I am for violating the law in the United States and putting myself in this situation,” Schmidt, 48, said. He returned to VW in Germany in 2015 but was arrested last January while on vacation in Miami. Schmidt has been in custody without bail for 11 months. Other VW employees have been charged, but they are in Germany and out of reach of U.S. authorities. VW pleaded guilty as a corporation in March and agreed to pay $4.3 billion in civil and criminal penalties on top of billions more to buy back cars.