LIMA — Former municipal court clerk Susan Barnett was granted an early exit from incarceration Monday after serving six months of a potential three-year prison sentence for stealing more than $300,000 from the city of Lima.
Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Reed said he leaned heavily on recent guidance from the Ohio Supreme Court in setting Barnett free. The judge acknowledged his decision will not please everyone.
Barnett, 77, of Lima, was sentenced Oct. 18 of last year after admitting she stole more than $330,000 from the city between 1997 and 2012 during her tenure with the Lima Municipal Clerk of Courts’ office.
“I’ve tried to look at this from both sides, and I know granting an early release or not granting it will leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth,” Reed said. “But with guidance from the Supreme Court of Ohio I will grant Miss Barnett’s release.”
Reed said Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor has asked trial courts across the state to give “serious consideration” to granting early release from state penal institutions to inmates who are at high risk of becoming infected with the COVID-19 virus.
While there have to date been no reported cases of the novel coronavirus at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, where Barnett has been incarcerated, defense attorney Zach Maisch suggested it is “only a matter of time” before the virus finds its way to the facility.
“Sue is in the high-risk age group and I think great consideration (for her early release) needs to be given by this court,” Maisch said.
Reed said he had reviewed several letters from “victims” in the case, the bulk of which were from staff members at Lima Municipal Court, asking that Barnett remain behind bars. But Maisch said six months in prison “is not a slap on the wrist as some of those letters would suggest.”
Barnett was charged under an amended indictment in April 2018 on two counts of theft in office, one count each of telecommunications fraud, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, aggravated theft and receiving stolen property. She agreed to plead guilty to one count of theft in office and one count of telecommunications fraud. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed the remaining four counts.
Barnett agreed to repay restitution to the city in the amount of $331,706. Monthly payments of $600, one-quarter of her monthly Public Employee Retirement System pension, is to be directed to the city as payment toward her restitution.