Ithaca, N.Y. — An Ithaca schools union president was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years of probation on Friday in Tompkins County Court on grand larceny charges.
Laureen Hamilton, 53, must also pay over $8,000 in restitution for the money she was charged with stealing using a debit card meant for union business.
Assistant District Attorney Daniel Johnson argued that Hamilton should be sentenced to jail, saying this was a case of “plundering, plain and simple,” and that Hamilton’s actions demonstrated “pure greed.”
Hamilton’s attorney, Jim Hickey, said his client’s position is clear: that she never fully understood what she was and was not allowed to spend. Hickey said Hamilton understands now that what she did was wrong, and she is willing to pay restitutions.
Hickey said jail was not reasonable because if she goes to jail she won’t be able to pay her restitution. In addition, Hamilton continues to hold her job at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School and is putting the youngest of her three sons through college, according to the defense attorney.
During the sentencing, Hickey asked for a letter from BJM administration attesting to her dedication as an employee to be put on the record. (Hamilton was president of the ICSD Educational Support Professions union.)
The sentencing, originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m., was temporarily postponed because Hamilton’s attorney arrived over 15 minutes late. When Tompkins Judge John Rowley asked Hickey why the defense attorney was late, Hickey responded sarcastically. Rowley asked Hickey to apologize for his remarks or pay a $100 contempt of court fee. Hickey said he would pay the fee.
The court was temporarily adjourned while Hickey and Hamilton met, and the case resumed after 2:00 p.m.
In a closing statement to the judge, Hamilton said she wanted to be with her sons and grandsons and continue her job at BJM.
“I just want my life back,” she said.
Although the Schuyler County probation department had recommended a conditional discharge given that Hamilton had no prior criminal record and was considered to be a low risk factor, Judge Rowley said he disagreed with this recommendation.
“This was stolen,” Rowley said. “This was money you were entrusted, and it comes out of the pockets of employees.”
Hamilton’s attorney said that previous theft cases at the Tompkins County Court with much higher damages had not received jail time, but this did not sway Rowley’s decision.
Hamilton was ordered to appear at Tompkins County Jail on Feb. 13 to begin her sentence.
Her sentencing was on the same day as her birthday.