White woman who stole $250K gets probation, while Black woma

There are a million excuses for police corruption -- that they're underpaid, that they suffer stress, that their wives hate them, that they eat too many donuts, that their kids hate them, and that liberals use them as whipping boys. Read the official reports to hear the dreary recitation of why those who administer the laws never seem to obey them.

White woman who stole $250K gets probation, while Black woma

Postby admin » Mon Aug 09, 2021 10:42 pm

White woman who stole $250K gets probation, while Black woman who stole $40K goes to jail. Disparate sentences spark calls for reform
by Cory Shaffer
cleveland.com
Updated Aug 09, 1:07 AM; Posted Aug 08, 5:00 AM

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


Image
Debbie Bosworth, left, received probation after stealing $250,000 from Chagrin Falls. Karla Hopkins, right, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after stealing $42,000 from Maple Heights High School.

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Two Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judges doled out disparate sentences this week to women who stole public money in separate cases, reigniting calls to create a statewide sentencing database to ensure judges mete out fair punishments.

A white woman stole nearly $250,000 from the village of Chagrin Falls. Judge Hollie Gallagher sentenced her on Monday to two years of probation. A Black woman who stole $40,000 from Maple Heights City Schools went before Judge Rick Bell, who sentenced her Tuesday to 18 months in prison.

Leaders of Black faith organizations, labor organizations, current and former judges and social activist groups all told cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer that the stark difference between the sentences damaged the credibility of the criminal justice system and reinforced the sentiment that judges disproportionately punish people of color or those without means.

All of the leaders called on Cuyahoga County’s judges and judges around the state to join an Ohio Supreme Court pilot project that would create a public database to make transparent how judges sentence defendants and provide guardrails on judicial discretion that often results in unequal justice.

Only 10 of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court’s 34 judges have said they plan to sign on to the program. Six of those judges are in their first term on the bench.

“It’s kind of hard to figure how you can end up with results that are so different for similar kinds of actions,” former longtime Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine said. “Cases like these point out the need for the system to do a better job of reviewing the data because there’s lots of disparity between the way that people of color and white people are treated. But it doesn’t get captured because nobody’s really looking.”

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Michael Donnelly, who spent 14 years on the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas bench before ascending to the state’s highest court in 2019, and 8th District Court of Appeals Judge Sean Gallagher said the adoption of the database would move the state closer to identifying and correcting issues that contribute to disparities in sentencing.

“Are we satisfied with a system that would allow for two extremely different results like this?” Donnelly asked. “Is that good policy? Does it make the community more safe, when our sentencing laws allow for that disparity? We need to ask that question in Ohio.”

Both judges said that, while judicial discretion is important, the reaction to this week’s differing sentences shows the state needs to do more to ensure that judges punish people who commit similar crimes more equally.

“If there isn’t faith in the justice system that you’re going to get a fair shake, then that’s the biggest indictment against keeping the things the way they are,” Gallagher said.

The Debbie Bosworth case

Debbie Bosworth, a clerk in the Chagrin Falls village utilities and building departments stole more than $248,000 over 20 years by pocketing cash from residents’ utility payments and moving money from the building department to the utility department to cover the theft.

The village discovered her theft in 2019. She resigned and hired prominent defense attorney Ian Friedman. She paid for a forensic audit to determine how much money she stole and began to work to pay the money back. Friedman nearly worked out a deal with assistant prosecutors to have Bosworth plead guilty to a fourth-degree felony theft in office, in order to bypass a grand jury. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley scuttled the deal and instead a grand jury indicted her on 22 counts, including multiple counts of third-degree theft in office.

Bosworth’s case was assigned to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Hollie Gallagher, who has been on the bench since 2006, at her arraignment. Judges Hollie and Sean Gallagher are not related.

Bosworth pleaded no contest to all 22 counts after the judge denied a motion Friedman filed seeking to force the prosecutor’s office to accept the earlier plea deal, which would have allowed her to appeal to the 8th District.

At her Monday sentencing hearing, Friedman noted that Bosworth used her money to pay for her kids’ schooling, among other things, and had paid it back already. Under Ohio law, the state can seize the money left in a public employee’s pension once they are convicted of theft in office. Bosworth had more than $200,000 in her pension and used that to pay back some money. She cut a check for the remaining $100,000 the day of her sentencing.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Ed Brydle asked the judge to send Bosworth to prison, but did not request a specific amount of time. Judge Hollie Gallagher said because Chagrin Falls Mayor William Tomko did not ask for prison in a letter read aloud in court and Bosworth paid back all the money, she would sentence Bosworth to probation.

The Karla Hopkins case

Karla Hopkins worked as a secretary and executive assistant at Maple Heights High School. Her job was to collect various dues and fees from teachers and students and turn in money and receipts to the school treasurer. Hopkins kept $42,000 out of more than $71,000 she collected for a year, an audit later determined. She was indicted in May 2020 on a single count of third-degree felony theft in office

Hopkins’ case went to now-former Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Wanda Jones. Bell, a longtime assistant prosecutor, defeated Jones in the November election and assumed her docket.

Hopkins told Bell that she emptied her pension -- she didn’t know how much was in it but said, after taxes, she received about $20,000 -- to pay her bills after the school fired her. Her attorney, Bret Jordan, said that she began stealing the money while dealing with mental health issues and her gambling addiction but has since gotten treatment and gone through a job placement program. In the meantime, she came up with $5,000 to pay toward her restitution.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor James Gutierrez, like Brydle did with Bosworth, sought a prison sentence for Hopkins. He told Bell that the state would be fine with a sentence of between nine and 12 months.

Bell scolded Hopkins for taking her pension money, and sentenced her to 18 months in prison -- six more months than Gutierrez requested.

Both judges declined to comment on their sentencing decisions. In a statement, court spokesman Darren Toms said judges could not discuss individual cases beyond what they say in open court.

“However, every case that comes before the Court has a unique set of circumstances that are taken into consideration at sentencing,” Toms said.

‘Terrible injustice’

The unequal sentences kicked up a swift reaction from community leaders, who saw the outcomes together as another example of a white person with means catching a break, while a Black woman felt the justice system’s wrath.

“I think it reinforces the lack of trust in the justice system,” Danielle Sydnor, president of the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP, said. “These types of things are the way the system was designed, and they will continue to happen if we don’t have large-scale reform.”

Norman Edwards, the head of the Black Contractor’s Group in Cleveland and influential political activist, said he was considering working against both judges’ re-election campaigns.

“This is a terrible injustice,” Edwards said. “We’re trying to build unity in this city and give our young children hope, and show them a different way. When we have our judicial system show this kind of disparity, I don’t know what to say to kids.”

The Rev. Aaron Phillips, executive director of the Cleveland Clergy Coalition who is also politically active, said his organization is “seriously concerned” about the disparity in the two sentences.

Phillips, Sydnor and Jerry Primm, head of the group G-PAC that worked with the NAACP on a judicial endorsement and rating process whose group campaigned for Bell, all said the sentences underscored the dire need to adopt a statewide sentencing program database.

“The Black Contractors and The Cleveland Clergy Coalition are very disturbed by the recent sentencing disparity by two women that committed similar crimes but received very different sentences,” Phillips said in a statement. “This is why the Black Contractors and Cleveland Clergy Coalition supports Truth In Sentencing Data Base for the State of Ohio. A Statewide Sentencing Data Base will address the racial disparity and systemic racism that exists in the Criminal Justice System.”

Sydnor echoed Phillips’ sentiments.

“We absolutely support the belief that we have to have a more comprehensive tool to evaluate how judges are arriving at their decisions, and acknowledge that, whether people like to hear it or not, race is often a factor when people are deciding who deserves the benefit of the doubt,” she said. “You can’t fix something you’re not willing to diagnose.”

The Database

The push for a statewide sentencing database is rooted in a 1999 report from the Commission on Racial Fairness, which then-Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Moyer tapped to examine whether the justice system treated Black people and minorities worse than white people. Adrine chaired the commission, which included prominent judges, lawyers and prosecutors from across the state, including then-Cuyahoga County Prosecutor and future U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones and then-Common Pleas Court Judge Carl Character. Both Tubbs-Jones and Character have since died.

The committee concluded that judges sentenced Black people to prison and death row at a “grossly disproportionate rate” compared to white defendants. The commission noted that the court’s and state’s lack of record-keeping made it nearly impossible to determine why that disparity existed. The commission called for such data to be kept and reported to be used for a future study.

“[T]he means to develop, analyze and act upon the types of information this Commission found unavailable are essential to a definitive determination of the validity of the strong-held perception, in some quarters, that there is one sentencing standard for whites and another for others,” the report concluded.

Adrine said many judges across the state pushed back to attempts to track their sentencing data, and the issue got pushed aside.

“I have to believe that a lot of people were nervous about what the database might show,” Adrine said.

More than two decades later, current Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, Donnelly and then-8th District Judge Ray Headen, along with the Ohio Sentencing Commission, launched a push in 2020 to create the Ohio Sentencing Data Platform to collect and analyze the sentencing data from all 88 county criminal courts.

Bell is one of the 10 Cuyahoga County judges who have volunteered to join the project. The others are Cassandra Collier-Williams, Emily Hagan, William McGinty, Sherrie Miday, John J. Russo, Nancy Margaret Russo, Brendan Sheehan, Deborah Turner and William F.B. Vodrey, Toms said. Collier-Williams, Sheehan and both Russos are the only judges who have served more than one term on the bench.

All 10 judges in Summit County Common Pleas Court plan to participate in the project, according to the program’s website.

Bell also keeps his own database, which he told cleveland.com he spends about four hours each week filling out. He inputs 24 data points on each case, including the defendant’s gender and race. He vowed to create and maintain the database as a campaign promise to the Black community and G-PAC.

“I want to keep myself honest and proportionate to myself,” he said.

Bell said he has been scheduled for several weeks to speak to the Ohio Sentencing Commission later this month about his personal database.

How would it work?

Donnelly and 8th District Judge Sean Gallagher are each on the state’s sentencing commission that is creating the database. Both said in interviews that they were not criticizing either Bell or Judge Hollie Gallagher over the sentences they handed down in their respective cases, but were addressing the appearance of a disparity in the two cases.

“When you have a system or a scheme that doesn’t really build in objective stopping points to drive a judge more or less to a particular range, this is what you get,” Judge Sean Gallagher said in a phone interview. “You get disparity built-in.”

Donnelly and Judge Sean Gallagher said they envision a computer database where judges assign variables of each case -- like if a defendant paid restitution, the number of victims, the number of times they committed a crime -- a numeric value. The database could run each case against other similar cases before that judge, in that judge’s courthouse or across the state, and then show the judge an average sentence for similar cases. Defense attorneys and prosecutors could use the database to advocate for a particular sentence, and the public would be able to view which judges are doling out proportionate sentences.

Judges could still use their discretion to deviate from that, and the data would allow them to show exactly why they did, Donnelly and Judge Sean Gallagher said.

The Ohio Sentencing Commission has created a template form that includes dozens of pieces of information about each case and defendant that judges in the pilot program fill out.

Donnelly said that the group wants to avoid imposing mandatory minimum prison sentences, and still give judges more leeway than the federal court system, where the U.S. Sentencing Commission has established strict sentencing guidelines that judges must follow. Federal judges are allowed to deviate above or below those guidelines, but must justify why in an opinion in case defense attorneys or prosecutors choose to appeal the judge’s decision.

Both cited the wide range of latitude that the state’s sentencing laws give judges as another contributor to disparate sentences. In Bosworth’s case, Judge Hollie Gallagher could have sentenced her to anywhere from probation to more than 60 years in prison. Hopkins faced probation or a sentence of between nine months and three years in prison.

“I believe it’s the scheme that’s deficient,” Judge Sean Gallagher said. “These judges are, for the most part trying to do the right thing.

Donnelly said the lack of sentencing data leaves judges to operate based on their gut on each case. He said that he believes most judges would deny that they hand out disparate sentences and believe they are being fair to each defendant.

“I guarantee if you went into my data, you’d find huge discrepancies from case to case,” Donnelly said of his time on the bench. “I wouldn’t be able to defend that, because the ranges our trial court judges have are so wide. I was operating in the dark.”

Adrine said that most people are subjected to performance measures at their job, and it’s time that judges are too.

“All of us can benefit from being able to view our own work,” Adrine said. “If I don’t know where I’ve been, I have no way of knowing where I am and absolutely no clue where I’m going.”
admin
Site Admin
 
Posts: 33700
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Return to Police Corruption: The Crime Starts When the Cops Show Up

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron