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December 24, 2008

"Judge doesn't let nun withdraw guilty plea"

The title of this post is the title of this local article out of Nebraska, which update a story from this summer (covered here and here) concerning ailing elderly nun getting a tough sentence for stealing more than $250,000 to support her gambling habit.  Here are the latest specifics:

The appeal of the embezzling nun is done — at least in Douglas County. Douglas County District Judge Thomas Otepka has rejected Sister Barbara Markey's request to withdraw her guilty plea — a request Markey made after being sentenced to prison instead of probation.

Markey, 74, now is expected to appeal her prison sentence to the Nebraska Supreme Court. Markey, a psychologist who developed a widely used Catholic marriage preparation course, was sentenced in July to three to five years in prison — a term that is cut to 18 to 30 months under state sentencing guidelines.

Markey had pleaded guilty to a theft in which prosecutors say she embezzled $250,000 of Omaha Archdiocese funds. At least $76,000 of that amount was gambled away at Council Bluffs casinos.

Markey's attorneys, J. William Gallup and John Berry Jr., ... had asked Otepka to allow Markey to withdraw her guilty plea, saying her prison sentence was a "manifest injustice." Gallup argued that Markey deserved probation — a sentence that has been given to two Omaha Archdiocese priests who have embezzled from their parishes. However, those priests — one stole $125,000, the other, $83,000 — were sentenced by a different judge.

Otepka long has taken a hard line on white-collar crime — sentencing embezzlers to anywhere from two to five years for stealing amounts from $55,000 to $250,000. In his 10-page order, Otepka wrote that he carefully considered Markey's sentence and that he repeatedly advised Markey at the time of her guilty plea that he alone would decide the length of her sentence.

I suppose this case provides a useful reminder during this holiday season about who has the ultimate authority to pass judgment on fellow humans in our terrestrial legal system.

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December 24, 2008 at 07:39 AM | Permalink

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