Former Sherrard Village Clerk pleads guilty

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

Marilyn Davis, 74, of Sherrard, pled guilty to one of three theft charges in Mercer County Court on Monday, April 13, 2009, in a plea agreement between the state and public defender.

Judge James G. Conway found sufficient factual basis to accept the plea and be bound by the negotiations, which include no more than a four-year sentence in the Department of Corrections.

Davis accepted responsibility to count two, with counts one and three dismissed in the plea agreement. Count two, a Class 1 felony, is theft of more than $10,000 but not more than $100,000.

Public Defender C. Michael Darrow told the court he would be arguing for probation. The plea agreement includes that Davis will repay the Village of Sherrard $100,000.

State's Attorney Gregory McHugh explained the case the state would have made, had it gone to trial. He said the state would have proven that between December of 2003 and September of 2008 Davis, was the village clerk and water collector and had access to the village checkbook.

Village president Tim Ayers came to the sheriff because a village audit showed a lot of discrepancy in the previous two years' audits.

Davis was interviewed by Mercer County investigator Jeff Dale and admitted to writing herself unauthorized checks between 2003 and September of 2008.

Public defender Darrow objected to any evidence beyond the $100,000 that Davis took responsibility for in the plea agreement.

McHugh said there were audit headings for 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, up through Sept. 2, 2008.

Judge Conway overruled Darrow's objection, with the agreement that restitution will not go beyond $100,000.

Copies of checks written to Davis would have been entered into evidence including examples from 2008, where Davis' salary payment was $13,824, but checks totaling $62,988 had been written to her. McHugh said that Davis' salary in 2007 was $24,414 and she had checks written to herself for $74,484.

Judge Conway said that this proved Davis embezzled $100,000.

McHugh said the defendant had no prior criminal history and one minor seatbelt ticket.

Part of reaching a plea agreement includes going through what the penalties could be if a person is found guilty. McHugh said the penalty for a Class 1 felony includes from four to 15 years in the Department of Corrections and two years mandatory court supervision, or four years probation and up to $25,000 fine.

A pre-sentence investigation and report were ordered by Judge Conway for the probation department to prepare prior to sentencing. A sentencing hearing will take place at 1:30 p.m. June 15, 2009.

"We'll set all afternoon for this hearing. I understand there is a lot of interest on the east end of the county," said Judge Conway.

Defense said it also had a motion to include a medical mitigation expert's testimony at the sentencing hearing, which he said the state had no objection to.

McHugh said he would be arguing for a $500 cap on the cost to the state for the expert's testimony, with the defense responsible if the cost was higher.

April 28 at 10:30 a.m. the court will hear the motion for appointing an expert medical witness.

Darrow asked the court to excuse Davis from having to attend that hearing, which the court agreed to.

The two dismissed charges were count one, theft of more than $100,000, a class X felony and count three, official misconduct, obtain personal advantage, a class 3 felony.