The last of four Columbus men charged with theft from Eastwood Local Schools was sentenced last week.
William Lee, 29, pleaded guilty March 16 to forgery and theft charges and was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years community control.
“This court has absolutely every single right to put him in prison,” said his attorney, William Hayes, “and I asked that you not.”
Lee had six or seven pages of felony criminal history, but he shouldn’t be sent to prison since this incident in October 2018, he has stayed out of trouble “and this court took a chance of him … and gave him an OR (own recognizance) bond,” Hayes said.
Lee is living in Columbus and has showed up for all court appearances, he said.
“This guy has proven to the court he is willing to work with the probation department,” Hayes said. “He took responsibility for what he did.”
Lee is one of four Columbus residents indicted with forgery and theft from Eastwood schools and its board of education.
Lee, 49, and Madison Cardwell, 21, were indicted on one count forgery and one count theft.
Craig Sneed, 26, and Terry Grady, 50, were both indicted on two counts each of theft and forgery.
All four appeared in front of Wood County Common Pleas Judge Molly Mack.
Hayes said with age comes some wisdom, and Lee has said he wants to stop being the victim and take responsibility for his actions.
“Thank you for being lenient with the OR bond,” Lee said when asked if he wanted to address the court.
He said he is not currently working due to his legal issues, but is in school full time, taking online classes.
“I’ve got a lot of things going on. I’m trying to change my life,” he said.
Mack said community control is presumed in a case like this, but she took into consideration the “serious economic harm” to the victim and the lack of genuine remorse shown by the defendant.
It is the discretion of the court to determine sentencing, she said.
“I’m going to give you a chance on community control,” Mack said. “I think your attorney has spoken very well on what you’ve been doing since 2018 when these charges were filed.”
She sentenced Lee to three years community control, of which 60 days will be spent at the Wood County Justice Center starting March 16. After he finishes his jail time, he must undergo drug testing, participate in a 12-step support meeting, get a job and stay in school, finish 150 hours of community service over the next three years, and more.
Lee said one of the best decisions he made was to take classes online, which he will continue.
“At least you were prepared,” Mack responded.
Lee must pay $1,578 in restitution to State Bank and Trust Co.
If he violates the term of his community control sanctions, he could be sentenced to up to 12 months for each charge. If sentenced consecutively, that could mean two years in prison.
Sneed, 26, who plead guilty to the amended charges of two counts forgery, was sentenced in October to three years community control and ordered to pay $2,787 in restitution within three years. The theft charges were dismissed.
Grady, 59, changed his plea to guilty for all four counts. He was sentenced to 12 months with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction on each of the amended charges of one count forgery and two counts theft. The sentences are to be served concurrently for 12 months total.
A second count of forgery was dismissed. He was given credit for 41 days spent at the jail.
Grady must pay restitution in the amount of $2,667.
Cardwell, 21, was indicted on one count each forgery and theft. He pleaded guilty to the forgery charge and the theft charge was dismissed.
He was sentenced in October to two years community control with conditions that included 100 hours of community service work.
Court records do not show he must pay restitution.
According to court documents, all of the defendants cashed forged checks made out to themselves. The checks were all drawn on Eastwood Local Schools Board of Education checks from the school’s bank account in early October 2018.
Both of Sneed’s checks were for $929 each; both of Grady’s checks were cashed for $889 each. The check to Lee was for $789, while the check for Cardwell was cashed for $977.
Collectively the six checks cashed fraudulently were valued at $5,402.
The court records did not indicate how the men obtained the fraudulent checks.