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August 29, 2011

Severna Park marathoner guilty in case of false claims, theft

Charles Coughlin, a decorated, retired graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who was initially honored for his bravery during the attacks of September 11, 2001, has been declared guilty of making a false claim and stealing public money, according the Associated Press.

Coughlin was tried three times before a guilty verdict was delivered, with the process starting very soon after the attacks themselves.

From a 2001 story:

The Feds claim Coughlin, 49, falsely claimed he suffered "a partial permanent disability" after falling debris hit him on the head, earning him $331,000 from the Victim Compensation Fund.

Not two months after filing his claim, Coughlin ran the New York City marathon in under four hours and continued playing basketball and lacrosse, prosecutors said.

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Prosecutors this time around limited their case to two counts, down from an original four that had been aimed at both Charles Coughlin and his wife, Sabrina. (The first iteration resulted in a mistrial, followed by some interesting discussions about double jeopardy, which ultimately derailed on the government's second try in court.) By this time, the prosecution had its presentation pretty well honed. From today's AP story:

But prosecutor Susan Menzer said Coughlin ran another marathon in November 2001 and showed the jury a picture of him running on the lacrosse field gripping a stick, taken after the attacks. She also showed jurors copies of check carbons she said he gave to the fund, falsely claiming they were for services he could no longer perform around the house. For example, she said he claimed a check for his lacrosse league dues was actually for someone to lay mulch in his yard. Coughlin said they were not fraudulent but mistakes due to sloppy accounting by his wife.

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I don't know Charles Coughlin, nor do I know much about the case, so I'm not entitled to comment on this in any depth.

I think it's safe to say, however, that it's fascinating how much various juries' perceptions of pain tolerance, machismo and conditioning played roles in the various verdicts. An initial jury believed that Coughlin was the kind of man who would run through debilitating pain, which influenced their decision.


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Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
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Patrick Maynard, who will be writing about running and walking, has been a producer for since 2008. In 2009, he tweeted on-course for the Sun from the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in just under 4 hours and almost managing to run the whole time. He sometimes walks to the Sun offices on Calvert Street.
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Leeann Adams, a multimedia editor at The Baltimore Sun, also dabbles in content for the mobile website and iPhone app and covers the Ravens via video. She did a triathlon to celebrate her 40th birthday and continues to swim, bike and run -- none of them quickly, though. Her biggest fitness challenge is to balance working, working out, spending time with her husband and being a mom to a 6-year-old boy.
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Anica Butler, the Sun's crime editor, is a former high school runner and recovering vegetarian who spent more of her early-adult years on a bar stool than working out. She is currently training (though poorly) for a half marathon and is trying to live a generally healthier lifestyle. She also hates the gym.
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