The Blog Formerly Known As Practical Paralegalism
Pennsylvania attorney Jeff Connelly, a victim of embezzlement by his former paralegal, has requested that the Erie County Court of Common Pleas increase the amount of her $300.00 per month court-ordered restitution payment. In April 2005, Kelly Mitchell (formerly Little), pled no contest to two counts of theft from Connelly’s firm and agreed to re-pay approximately $74,000.00 stolen over a three-year period. Connelly was not insured for the losses. (Mitchell was also sentenced to seven to twenty-three months in prison and agreed to repay an additional $12,000.00 taken from local attorney J. Gregory Moore as part of her plea.)Mitchell was ordered to pursue additional income to re-pay Connelly, and since the initial order, probation officials have periodically increased her payment to the present $300.00 per month. While she is current in her payments, she still owes Connelly over $63,000.00 and her debt is not subject to interest.Connelly wants Mitchell to get another job so that she can increase her payments. Defendants are typically required by the local probation department to pay 7.5 percent of their net income as restitution, but court records do not indicate that Mitchell’s current earnings at her husband’s beverage wholesaler business have been verified.Connelly’s request may affect the way local courts order restitution in other cases. Judge Michael E. Dunlavey is reviewing the county’s restitution’s guidelines with his fellow judges to determine if changes are warranted. Judge Dunlavey said after the hearing, “We can’t allow a criminal debtor to determine whether they are going to repay a legitimate debt on their own terms.”I hope that Judge Dunlavey orders a review of Mitchell’s current income and increases her restitution payments if the facts support it. I don’t think that ordering her to get a part-time job, barring any extenuating medical or family circumstances, is unreasonable, given the methodical theft she admitted to while working for several attorneys. If Mitchell is in a position to accelerate her payments, she should be ordered to do so. After all, Connelly is still paying the price for her crime, including the loss of his clients’ trust and an obligation to make things right with them, whether she returns the funds or not.Do you think it’s reasonable to order Mitchell to get a part-time job to increase her restitution payments?