BELLAIRE Olivia A. Patterson, 36, of Martins Ferry, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of theft Thursday in Eastern Division Court in a move Assistant Prosecutor Scott A. Lloyd and Judge John Vavra hope will help begin the healing process for her victims.
Patterson was accused of stealing nearly $7,000 from the Shadyside Cheerleading Association, the official name associated with the cheerleading squads at Shadyside High School.
That is money the girls on the squad worked to earn over many months and were planning to utilize for uniforms and other related team costs.
Originally, Patterson was charged with a fifth-degree felony.
But as Lloyd stated, amending the charge to a misdemeanor was done so in an effort to strike balance and ensure that the cheerleading teams' money was eventually paid back.
"In discussing with the victims and (defense attorney) Mr. (Frank) Pierce, we wanted to strike a balance between accountability and getting the money taken from the cheerleaders' association to get paid back," Lloyd said. "We want to show the young ladies from Shadyside that there are consequences for your actions but also to get their money back to them that they worked hard to earn."
An adult representative from the association believed the amount Patterson stole was closer to $9,000 while Patterson initially stated she believed she took less than the $6,941.
But that was the number that could be proved was taken.
So in exchange for dismissing the felony charge, Patterson's guilty plea came with:
180 day jail sentence, all suspended
She must pay back $6,941 in restitution, along with $320 in fines and fees at the rate of a minimum of $200 per month.
Upon receipt of her tax refund, Patterson is not allowed to cash the check. She must bring it, along with any action on the sale of her house, to a follow-up hearing in March.
Patterson must issue an in-person apology to the cheerleaders and their parents on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. in the high school's multi-purpose room.
Failure to meet these conditions will result in Patterson serving her full 180 day jail sentence.
"Like Mr. Pierce pointed out, this is a balancing," Vavra said. "The girls need their money back. It costs the taxpayers more than $100 per day to have you sit in jail. But you have 180 days over your head. You've been given your second chance. If you don't do it, you'll serve 180 days and still have to pay all that is owed."
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