Joel D. Davis, a former Bethesda accountant, was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court to 18 years in prison for plotting to kill an Internal Revenue Service agent, for mail fraud and for the 1980 arson of an Orthodox Jewish resort he owned in upstate New York.
In a sentencing memorandum presented in court, prosecutors portrayed Davis, 48, as a man who "attempted to use the mask of respectability . . . and his purported religiosity as both a sword to ensure his criminal conduct went undetected, and now as a shield in order to prevent the lengthy prison sentence he deserves."
In June, Davis was convicted of hiring a man to burn down the Torahtowne resort. The sentencing memorandum states that Davis instructed his accomplice to paint swastikas and anti-Jewish slogans on Torahtowne's walls "so that no one would suspect him, a devoutly religious man, as the person responsible for the arson."
In August, Davis pleaded guilty to plotting in 1982 to murder an IRS agent who was digging into his financial affairs. The murder plot was never carried out.
"His conduct was really one of arrogance and the feeling that he was above the law," said Gregg L. Bernstein, assistant U.S. attorney. "He now comes forward and says: 'I am a religious man. I have always been a religious man.' "
In a written statement to the court, Davis admitted having made a terrible mistake that had ruined his career and brought shame on himself and his family.
"I have not given up. I will rebuild my life," he wrote. "Somewhere I stumbled, and I deeply regret those actions."
In handing down the sentence, Judge Walter E. Black Jr. said he was not so much concerned with deterring Davis from future crimes as with deterring others who might attempt similar schemes.
Davis also owes nearly $1 million in federal taxes and penalties and has a pending civil case in which he faces a possible $168,000 judgment for the Torahtowne arson.
He remains free on $250,000 bond but must surrender to federal marshals Jan. 7.