LANCASTER — A contrite Elizabeth Lane stood before a sympathetic Garrard Circuit Judge Hunter Daugherty Friday for sentencing and walked away with most of her expected prison time probated.
Lane, 29, pleaded guilty last month to stealing nearly $20,000 from the Garrard County Clerk’s office while she worked there as a deputy in 2009 and 2010. Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Lockridge recommended a seven-year prison sentence in exchange for her guilty plea.
But Daugherty listened as Lane’s public defender, Jenny Sanders, reported that her client has no criminal history and has already repaid $5,000. “She has stepped up and taken responsibility for her actions,” Sanders told the judge, who agreed that a lengthy prison sentence didn’t seem necessary.
“I can tell by your demeanor you are sincerely apologetic for what happened,” Daugherty told Lane. “But I can’t give you straight probation. There has to be some face-the-music time.”
Daugherty ordered Lane to serve 60 days in jail beginning tonight, but granted her work release to allow her to keep her job and continue to make restitution payments. He probated the remainder of her seven-year sentence.
“$20,000 is a lot of money,” the judge said, adding that failure to make timely payments would result in Lane being jailed.
Lane agreed to pay $100 a month, plus an additional $1,500 a year from her tax returns, until the entire amount is repaid to the clerk’s office. On that schedule, Daugherty estimated it will take about five years.
Lane’s former boss, recently retired county clerk Stacy May, watched the sentencing from the rear of the courtroom.
“I’m okay with it,” May said afterward. “My main thing was I wanted every bit of that money paid back.”
After May noticed problems with Lane’s records, she was terminated in June 2010. An investigation by Kentucky State Police resulted in Lane being indicted for theft and entering false information into a motor vehicle registration system. Lane had voided vehicle registration payments and pocketed the money, the investigation found.
A review of the records by the state auditor’s office found that 877 modified transactions took place and a total of $19,996 was missing.
Daugherty indicated that Lane was motivated to take the money because she was under financial pressure from her family. Lane was supporting her brother, his wife and a child at the time, the judge said.
Lane declined to comment as she left the courthouse.