White woman who stole $250K gets probation, while Black woman who stole $40K goes to jail. Disparate sentences spark calls for reform
Two Ohio judges hand down very different sentences to two women for stealing. A white woman stole approx. $250,000 from the village of Chagrin Fallas and Judge Hollie Gallagher sentenced her on Aug. 2 two years in probation. However, in another case a Black woman stole $40,000 from Maple Heights City Schools and was sentenced by Judge Rick Bell to 18 months in prison on Aug 3. Karla Hopkins, who is Black, was a school secretary and the white woman, Debbie Bosworth, was a clerk at the village. Both crimes are classified as third-degree felonies. The disparate sentences of two women both stole public money have reignited calls to create a statewide sentencing database in Ohio. This would ensure to make sure judges dole out equivalent punishments.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Michael Donnelly, supports the proposed database, asking, “Are we satisfied with a system that would allow for two extremely different results like this?” when he spoke to The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“The laws provide extreme discretion to trial court judges, to deal with sentencing criminal defendants. But there are no guardrails on the system to keep that sentencing power in check,” Donnelly said.
Judges considering a sentence could enter several factors into the database, including the number of victims involved in the crime, and whether restitution was paid. The judge could then be able to compare the case to similar ones and their sentences across the state in the database. This includes information on race, gender, and criminal history.
Gallagher the judge sentenced Bosworth after she took $238,000 over a 20-year period, said she didn’t think the 53-year-old deserved prison time because she made good on her promise to repay more than $300,000 before her sentencing. Bosworth agreed to forfeit over $200,000 in her public employee pension, and wrote another $100,000 check at her sentencing to cover other costs.
Bosworth was found guilty of all charges after facing a 22-count indictment for theft in office, tampering with records and money laundering. Bosworth violates terms of her probation she could be sentenced to 63 years in prison.
Hopkins stole about $40,000 from Maple Heights High School between July 2017 and June 2018. The 51-year-old pleaded guilty in June to one count of theft. Her defense attorney said she’d struggled with mental health problems and a gambling addiction but had completed an eight-week inpatient treatment program following her arrest.
After participating in a job development program, Hopkins was set to start a new job just prior to her sentencing.
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