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When former Washington Teachers’ Union official Gwendolyn Hemphill claimed she was mentally ill, prosecutors were skeptical and wanted their own expert to conduct a psychological exam. Defense lawyers agreed to the test, but now they say they were duped by government lawyers, who used the exam as a means to elicit incriminating statements from Hemphill. The defense filed a motion last week asking the judge to prohibit the government from using the statements, claiming “counsel was not informed of the true nature and scope of the �psychological testing.’ “ During the examination, Hemphill, 65, was interrogated for several hours without counsel about her participation in an embezzlement scheme that robbed the union of nearly $5 million. During the session, Hemphill divulged specific details about her use of union credit cards to make personal purchases. Defense attorney Nancy Luque, a partner with DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, did not respond to requests for comment. Although Hemphill already was convicted last summer on conspiracy, fraud, embezzlement, and money laundering charges, Luque argues in court papers that her client’s admissions might result in a harsher punishment when she is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon on May 22. Hemphill, who faces between 19 and 24 years in prison, is seeking a reduced sentence because of alleged mental illnesses, including hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. Lawyers for the government argue it was Hemphill who made her mental health an issue, stating in court documents that it’s not their fault the defense incorrectly assumed the exam would be limited to personality testing: “Although she maintains she was hoodwinked, she nowhere says she was misled. Nor can she.”
Sarah Kelley can be contacted at [email protected].

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