Theft from a local entity will not be tolerated as proven by Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall after he sentenced Jennie Carter on that charge in court Monday morning.
Carter was the defendant in a bench trial in February where, based on evidence and testimony, Judge Hall found her guilty of stealing $7,748.40 from the Starke County Tourism Commission.
During Monday morning’s sentencing hearing, the president of the Starke County Tourism Commission, June Sunderland, made a statement saying that Carter’s actions were detrimental to tourism in 2012 and 2013 as funds were frozen during the investigation. During that time, she said, Starke County could not be promoted. Sunderland remarked that Carter tarnished the reputation of the Tourism Commission and they continue to defend its integrity and to restore its reputation. Some board members resigned due to this blemish and were very dismayed that a person whom they trusted can no longer be trusted when it comes to money.
Prosecutor Nicholas Bourff explained that Carter has not shown remorse in her actions and made special attempt to conceal her actions. If the records had not been reviewed, she might have gotten away with it.
Carter’s defense attorney said she made a bad decision – a criminal decision. He stated that she never denied any fact and that she has shown remorse and shame. He made special note that she made an effort to pay back the money she stole before the criminal investigation ensued.
In her statement to the court, Carter apologized several times and told Judge Hall that she was ashamed. She wiped away tears as she told of how regretful she was that she hurt tourism in Starke County and took full blame for her actions. She remarked that she was in a desperate situation and what she did didn’t make it right. She told the court that she spoke to almost every board member and explained her situation. She was under the impression that criminal charges wouldn’t be filed with an agreement with the board if she paid restitution. The incident later garnered police investigation.
Judge Hall reviewed the mitigating factors submitted by the defense and declined many of them. He found that Carter went to great lengths to plan this theft. Judge Hall noted that she did pay back all funds stolen, but only after she had been caught. He stated that she paid back the funds to avoid prosecution.
The judge was careful to note that she committed perjury while under oath during her bench trial. She did not provide complete disclosure when asked about bank accounts and checks. He pointed out that forgery was also present in this case which wasn’t charged against her. A mitigating factor suggesting that this act was not likely to occur again was declined by Judge Hall as there is suspicion that other acts of theft may occur or have occurred.
Carter was sentenced to serve 18 months in the Department of Corrections with this breakdown: six months will be served in the DOC. Six months will be served on home detention and the final six months were suspended and will be served on probation. Carter was fined $2,500. As a condition of her probation, Carter is not to have any employment that involves funds of the public. She was given two days credit served in the Starke County Jail.
After the court proceeding was complete, she was escorted to the Starke County Jail to start her sentence. Her attorney said that an appeal or a motion to correct errors will be filed.