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Former Kootenai County deputy clerk sentenced for embezzlement

TUESDAY, NOV. 1, 2011

A former Kootenai County deputy clerk who embezzled $139,000 over 10 years will begin serving a 90-day jail sentence on Thursday, the day before her 63rd birthday.

Kootenai County 1st District Judge Fred Gibler on Monday imposed a 90-day jail sentence on Sandra Martinson, whose actions were discovered after she retired last November. Gibler also sentenced Martinson to pay $49,075 in restitution and to serve five years of supervised probation.

Bonner County Prosecutor Louis Marshall, who handled the case due to Martinson’s three-decade career with Kootenai County, said the restitution represents “every penny” possible considering a five-year statute of limitations. Martinson’s embezzlement spanned the 10 years ending last October.

Under a plea arrangement, Martinson will repay the money at the rate of $1,000 per month. Martinson pleaded guilty in August to a single count of grand theft, a felony punishable by up to 14 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.

Speaking from the stand as a prosecution witness, former Kootenai County Commissioner Rick Currie asked that Martinson serve “hard time.” Currie was a commissioner when the embezzlement was discovered.

“I have talked to many of Kootenai County’s employees about this case and they are 100 percent in agreement that a light sentence would send a message that it is OK to abuse the public trust,” Currie said. “A public employee is expected to set a higher standard of trust, and when that trust is betrayed the penalty needs to be significantly higher.”

Martinson’s attorney, Fred Loats, suggested a withheld judgment or home arrest in lieu of jail time. He noted her lack of a prior criminal record, her deteriorating health and her ties to the community.

“No good explanation can be given why she did this,” Loats said. “She’ll probably be asking that of herself for the rest of her life.”

Gibler acknowledged Martinson’s lack of a record and medical issues when beginning sentencing. However, he said, the sentence must send a message “that this type of conduct will be dealt with in a serious manner.

“You elected to steal from the public over an extended period of time” in a “systematic scheme of stealing,” Gibler told Martinson. “Public servants are held to a higher standard when we’re dealing with public funds.”

Just before the sentence was issued, Martinson apologized “to all” and said she looks back “with remorse and shame” at her actions. “I do not know how to atone for my crime.”

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