Last week, I wrote about Nicholas County, Kentucky Sheriff Leonard Garrett, who was on trial for using the county’s forfeiture dollars as his own personal slush fund. In a surprising turn of events, Garrett has accepted a plea bargain and resigned as sheriff. I’m not an expert on these matters, but the terms of the deal seem extraordinarily lenient to me:
Under the agreement, Garrett pleaded guilty to theft by unlawful taking over $300 and an amended charge of abuse of public trust under $10,000.
The recommended sentence is 10 years in prison, but Garrett probably will not serve time. Instead, the recommended sentence will be “diverted” for five years, during which time Garrett must meet certain conditions, including resignation from office, making restitution and not committing any other criminal offenses.
If he does not meet the requirements of the diversion, prosecutors could ask a judge to revoke it and sentence Garrett to the full 10 years. A judge also could extend the diversion period for longer than five years if Garrett does not meet conditions.
Under the plea agreement, Garrett agrees not to run for any public office again, even after the five-year diversion period ends. At the end of the diversion period, the case would be dismissed, and Garrett would not be a convicted felon, said Gary Adkins, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney who was working on the trial with Special Prosecutor Kathryn Hendrickson.
Somehow I doubt that if I was caught embezzling thousands of dollars from my employer, the prosecutor would offer me a deal that would let me walk free and wipe my record clean after five years in exchange for my resignation and repayment of the missing money (with no interest!). I’m glad Garrett will no longer be able to practice his perverted version of justice, but his treatment indicates that he is still above the law.