Sirens & Gavels

Woman can’t shake felony’s impact

Kristin Bell had what she calls a moment of weakness that has turned into a 2  1/2-year legal nightmare and forced her to give up a dream of ever working as a grade-school teacher.

Bell, 24, admits that she foolishly stole $163 worth of items in 2008 from a craft store in Cheney. But it’s what happened on her way to her car that forever changed her life and sparked a legal debate that continues today.

“It’s just been such an ordeal,” said Bell, who is about three classes short of her degree, unemployed and recently had a son. “I obviously admitted I shoplifted and paid the fines for it. I don’t believe being charged with robbery was right at all. It’s been ridiculous.”

The case, and others like it, has raised questions within Spokane’s legal community as to whether justice is being served when prosecutors turn what appears to be a shoplifting case into a felony at the same time they complain to county commissioners and taxpayers that they are understaffed and overworked.

Read the rest of Thomas Clouse's story here.




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