Carmichael receives 90 day jail sentence
May 19, 2016
The Elizabeth Carmichael criminal case came to a close on Thursday, May 19 with Carmichael remanded into the custody of the Grand County Sheriff's Office to serve a 90-day jail term.
The 90-day jail term Carmichael was sentenced to serve is in addition to numerous stipulations included in the plea agreement she signed earlier this year. In February Carmichael pleaded guilty to an amended count of "criminal attempt to commit theft" as part of the plea agreement.
Under the terms of the agreement Carmichael will serve five-years of supervised probation, serve 400 hours of public service, repay $120,000 in restitution and write a letter of apology to the victims in the case. During her probationary period Carmichael will not be allowed to be employed in accounting, book keeping, banking, as a financial officer, CPA or treasurer.
Carmichael stood accused of stealing roughly $451,000 from Bear Mountain Ranch in western Grand County while employed at the Ranch from 2009 to 2012.
District Court Judge Mary Hoak handed down the 90-day sentence following proceedings Thursday afternoon that included statements from Carmichael, her husband, one of her three children and her legal counselors. Representatives of the District Attorney's Office and the victims in the case, John and Anne Draper, also made statements before the Court.
After briefly reviewing particulars in the Victim Impact Statement (VIS) Carmichael's defense attorney, Steamboat Springs based Kristopher Hammond, addressed the court. Hammond outlined his view that the penalties agreed upon in the case's plea agreement were punishment enough to deter Carmichael from any future crime.
"Your Honor, I think as far as punishment is concerned; she (Carmichael) has plead guilty to a felony, she is now a convicted felon," said Hammond. "She has lost her job. She has agreed to pay $120,000 in restitution. Your Honor, I think the deterrent aspect of sentencing is satisfied here."
Prior to the initiation of criminal proceedings in the case Carmichael retained the services of a civil attorney, Sherri Sweers, who also addressed the court Thursday. Sweers began by outlining her own personal history with the case. "This is what I believe to be a complicated case," Sweers began. "This wasn't just a case about Elizabeth taking funds. We are also dealing with issues of unpaid wages."
Sweers explained that Carmichael first approached her in Dec. 2012. "She wanted me to address her employment issues." Sweers said. "The one thing that stands out. She said, on the first day, 'I used business funds for my personal items. I owe the businesses money."
Sweers said Carmichael told her she had additional issues with Ranch and according to Sweers Carmichael did not receive a salary while working for the Ranch in 2012.
Sweers closed by saying, "This was my professional conclusion, neither of the parties here really had clean hands. There was a culture of comingling of personal and business expenses… What ultimately stood out as important was Elizabeth owned her mistakes from day one. She was cooperative, professional and willing to repay funds. I think with all of these facts together we always have to ask, 'does jail serve a valuable purpose?"
Carmichael's husband addressed the Court as well, detailing family history and the difficulties faced by the entire Carmichael family after the criminal case came to light. He worked to contain his emotions as he spoke. Carmichael's eldest son also spoke before the court, offering a heartfelt plea for leniency regarding the jail sentence.
When Elizabeth Carmichael herself addressed the Court most of her comments were directed to the victims in the case, the Drapers. "I want to tell both John and Anne I want to apologize," Elizabeth began. "I own this crime… I betrayed your trust in me based on bad decisions. I am ashamed and embarrassed. I am embarrassed my husband and son had to come to court today to speak. I am sorry for those actions that caused that… I hope my family will not suffer any further for the things I have done wrong. I take full responsibility. When I entered my plea I entered it in true belief. Anne and John, I am sorry."
After Carmichael and those speaking on her behalf finished their statements Kathryn Brown with the District Attorney's Office spoke. "When the People sat down to evaluate this case, it was not a question of guilt," said Brown. "It was a question of the numbers. How much was stolen? What was she entitled to? It got very complicated."
Brown pointed out the Victim Impact Statement details some of the funds taken by Carmichael were used to pay for trips to the Cayman Islands and Florida as well as eating out at restaurants. "She (Carmichael) was put in a place of trust," Brown said. "But over and over again she used credit cards for personal benefit. She did not operate with integrity. She took advantage of their (the Drapers) kindness and their trust. That should be punished."
Brown outlined her belief that no treatment is necessary for Carmichael in this case. "This is a punishment case, a deterrent case," Brown said. "Certainly being labeled a felon is a huge punishment. Certainly her family has suffered. But those consequences are something the defendant has to accept. Ms. Carmichael benefited from this theft for several years. Her family also benefited. We are asking for 90 days in jail."
After Brown's comments both Anne and John Draper, who appeared in court via telephone, made very brief statements with both expressing agreement with the recommendation for a 90-day jail sentence.
When all other statements were completed Judge Hoak began outlining her position in the case. Her Honor referenced the recent Brigid Irish court proceedings. Judge Hoak pointed out that while the two cases are similar in nature two specific aspects of the Carmichael case swayed her decision to accept the recent plea agreement: one, Carmichael's crimes related to the theft of private and not public funds, as was the case with Brigid Irish; two, the victims in the case, the Drapers, were pleased with the terms of the plea agreement whereas in the Brigid Irish case the victims, Grand County Government, did not believe Irish would be able to pay restitution and sought meaningful incarceration.
"I believe you received a tremendous plea agreement," said Judge Hoak. "It has always been my position that it is up to criminal defendants to think about your family and you should have thought about them over this period of time… Since you were not thinking about your kids when you took this money then why should I?" Judge Hoak asked rhetorically. "My heart goes out to you. It appears you are a good parent, except for this."
As Judge Hoak prepared to deliver the sentence she spoke directly to Carmichael. "I really struggled with this plea agreement. I appreciate your words today about taking responsibility and I appreciate your apology to the Drapers. Having said that, your break, as far as I am concerned, came with the plea agreement… As a result you will not receive a benefit from this Court."
Judge Hoak sentenced Elizabeth Carmichael to 90 days in jail. Carmichael was taken directly into custody to begin serving her sentence.
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