Springer granted intervention instead of jail in theft
NEW LEXINGTON – If Martha “Marty” Springer abides by court orders and makes financial restitution, a felony theft will be expunged from her record, a common pleas judge decided Monday afternoon, granting Springer and her lawyer’s request for an “intervention in lieu of conviction.”
Springer, 64, pleaded guilty to a fourth degree embezzlement charge of stealing at least $45,000 from the local Tips for Tots charity organization. She used the stolen money to cover gambling debts, mainly purchasing “rip tickets” from the Thornport AMVETS and an American Legion organization. She will repay the money she stole and receive professional treatment for gambling addiction instead of prison time.
Common Pleas Judge James Luse said prison time was very unlikely for Springer, even if she went to trial and a jury found her guilty. Springer waived her right to trial.
“Recent changes to the felony sentencing laws have made it virtually impossible to send first time, non-violent offenders to the penitentiary,” said Springer’s attorney, James Linehan. “(Springer) is clearly a first time, non-violent offender.
Thus, in trying to resolve the case, the prosecutor (Ohio Associate Assistant Attorney General Matthew Donahue) wanted (Springer) to plead guilty, get probation, and was willing not to object to an expungment, but they wanted (Springer) to be convicted and sentenced, thus their objection to our motion for intervention in lieu of conviction.” Linehan said he argued, and the court agreed, that if the end result was going to be the same, why not use the diversion program established by the intervention in lieu of conviction statute.
“Under the statute (Springer) must now plead guilty to the offense,” said Linehan. “The court will then hold her guilty plea, but not sentence her.” He said Springer must agree to waive any right to a speedy trial. She then will be ordered to comply with her treatment plan for a minimum time of one year up to a maximum time of five years. The judge will establish the time. “I would also expect the judge to order her to pay restitution,” said Linehan. “We are in a position to do so, but have yet to reach an agreement as to the appropriate amount. I have provided the state documentation, which I believe supports our position as to the correct amount.” He said if Springer complies with her treatment plan the case will be dismissed. If she fails to do so, Springer will be sentenced up to 18 months in prison.
Linehan said Springer already repaid $20,000 of what she stole and $30,000 is being held in a trust to be used toward restitution. He added that she’s participated in Gamblers Anonymous and has not gambled in two years. “I think that I’m doing very well in the program,” Springer told the judge.
Still, the damage is done.
“You were stealing from the organization,” said Donahue, adding that Springer tried to cover her debts with fraudulent checks to Children’s Hospital. He tried to establish that Springer, in essence, stole from people over 65 years of age and younger than 13, making hers a more serious crime.
However, Luse said Springer stole from the Tips for Tots organization, and technically not directly from any individual. He said that although it didn’t excuse the crime, Springer raised many thousands of dollars for charity through the program and was not compensated for her work with Tips for Tots.
“It’s been an embarrassment to the community,” said Perry County Board of Elections member and Thornville business owner Frank Correll. He said the Toy Store, his recreational vehicle business, donated a generator, a vehicle, and other items for auction to raise money for Tips for Tots. He said Springer’s actions have made it tougher for the community to raise money for charity.
“To me, an intervention is just a slap on the hand,” said Thornville Amvets Post 51 manager Vickie Copely. She agreed that people are leery of giving money to local charities now and there are many Perry County children in need of financial help.
“This is the worst type of theft,” said Donahue. “She took money from people who trusted their money would go to children.” He said an intervention in lieu of conviction would demean the crime’s seriousness.
“There’s no doubt my client committed an offence,” said Linehan to Luse. “Clearly, it’s a serious offence, but we’ve taken it seriously. I believe it’s a perfect case for intervention in lieu of conviction.”
Luse agreed with Linehan.