Volkswagen senior manager Oliver Schmidt has been sentenced to seven years in a U.S. prison for concealing software that was used to evade pollution limits on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles.
Lawyers spent roughly 90 minutes giving different views about Schmidt’s culpability in the scandal in Detroit federal court on Wednesday.
But Judge Sean Cox sided with prosecutors, calling Schmidt a “key conspirator” who viewed the coverup as an opportunity to “shine” and “climb the corporate ladder.”
Schmidt led VW’s engineering and environmental office in Michigan from 2012 to early 2015. He met with key California regulators in 2015 but didn’t disclose the rogue software. The government says he later misled U.S. investigators and destroyed documents.
Schmidt’s lawyers argued that his role only heated up in 2015, years after others at VW hatched the scheme.
VW used sophisticated software to cheat emissions rules on nearly 600,000 U.S. vehicles and 100,000 in Canada.
The software reduced harmful emissions of nitrogen oxide when the cars were being tested, but on the road, the emissions were well over limits to control pollution.
VW pleaded guilty as a corporation in March and agreed to pay billions of dollars in fines.
The prison sentence and $400,000 US fine for Schmidt were the maximum possible under a plea deal in August the German national made with prosecutors after admitting to charges of conspiring to mislead U.S regulators and violate clean-air laws.
Schmidt read a written statement in court acknowledging his guilt and broke down when discussing his family’s sacrifices on his behalf since his arrest in January. “I made bad decisions and for that I am sorry,” he said.