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Judge wants stiffer sentence for Sandpoint embezzler

Sat., March 24, 2012, 6:09 p.m.

SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) — A northern Idaho judge has rejected a plea deal that recommended a 90-day sentence at the Bonner County Jail for a woman who pleaded guilty to embezzling about $250,000 from Coldwater Creek.

First District Judge Steve Verby on Friday postponed the sentencing after telling 54-year-old Susan Alene Hopkins that the sentence wasn’t tough enough. The plea agreement also called for Hopkins to repay $251,193 and receive a suspended prison term of three to 10 years.

“In this instance, we have an extremely serious series of offenses and local jail (time) does not appear to me to be an appropriate option,” he said.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports ( that Hopkins was originally charged with two counts of grand theft but entered into a plea agreement last year that dismissed one count in exchange for an admission of guilt on the other.

Verby noted another embezzling case involving $130,000 stolen from the Selkirk International Loop tourism group in Boundary County. A plea agreement in that case recommended a 180-day sentence for Jennifer Jeanine Watts. But Verby declined to accept that agreement in January and ordered Watts to serve one to six years in prison. Watts is currently being held in the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center in southeast Idaho.

Verby continued the sentencing hearing so Hopkins could decide her next move, and that hearing is pending. He attributed recent embezzlement cases partially to the tough economy.

“An old-time folk singer, Woody Guthrie, in his song ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ said, ‘Some rob you with a six-gun and some with a fountain pen.’ If she did these offenses and if she did incur $250,000 of the charges, she would be engaging in embezzlement not with a fountain pen but with a credit card,” Verby said.

Chief Public Defender Isabella Robertson, Hopkins’ attorney, said she doubted her client had legal grounds to withdraw her guilty plea.

And Deputy prosecutor Larry Goins said he would object if Hopkins withdrew her guilty plea.


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