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Wills won’t be home for holidays

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Shelby County Circuit Judge Hickman rejects shock probation

By Lisa King

Jody Wills won’t be home for Christmas because her latest plea for leniency from the court has been turned down.

Shelby Circuit Judge Charles Hickman denied Wills’ request for shock probation, made by her attorney, Bill Stewart, on July 23.

Stewart had stood in for Wills, who was incarcerated and couldn’t make her request in person, as she had done with Judge Steve Mershon in 2010, when Mershon stunned the courtroom with his leniency after a tearful plea from Wills for mercy.

Hickman made the decision Oct. 3 to turn down Wills’ request for shock, almost a month after prosecutors filed a formal objection to letting her out of prison.

Shelby County Commonwealth Attorney Laura Donnell said in a written argument to Hickman that she objected to shock probation for Wills because she did not pay restitution payments in a timely manner.

“Another consideration for the court is the serious nature of the offense,” Donnell wrote. “Wills admitted stealing more than $600,000 from her employer. Clearly, this is a serious offense. The Commonwealth believes the record establishes that imprisonment is the only remaining adequate measure of punishment.”

On the court order denying shock, the document contained only Hickman’s signature, and no comments on why he reached the decision he did.

Wills’ attorneys, Bill Stewart and Sam Carl, said they were not made privy to his reasons.

“He had no explanation; he just turned it down flat,” Stewart said. “So we are waiting now for the next step.”

That step is an appeal Stewart and Carl have filed in the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Wills initially had been granted probation in 2009 on embezzlement charges and was supposed to repay the money to her employer, attorney Mark Dean, on a set restitution schedule, consisting of weekly payments of $600.

When she did not, Hickman revoked her probation in December 2011, sending her to prison for her 10-year sentence, a sentence she had accepted in a plea agreement but which Mershon had cut down to 9 months in the county jail with work release and 5 years probation.

In March 2012, Hickman denied her request to be let out on bond while she is awaiting her appeal of his prior ruling through the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Stewart said Monday that he still has not had any word from the Court of Appeals on when judges could schedule Wills’ case.

The next step will be to present oral arguments to the Court of Appeals, Stewart said.

Those argument will make reference, among other things, to the fact that Wills submitted all of her paycheck for restitution and the fact that it still fell short of her obligation did not alter the fact that she was doing the best she could, Stewart said.

“It’s a very complicated brief, a four-prong argument that relates to a number of very interesting issues,” he said. “It lays everything out well, and we addressed issues of what we call settled law, and the United States Supreme Court and the Kentucky Supreme Court was the basis for that.”

But when Stewart brought up that argument in front of Hickman after Donnell had petitioned the court to revoke Wills’ probation for not paying the full amount, Donnell blasted Wills’ for not taking a second job to make up the difference in payment.

“Over the history of this case, the defendant has been given many opportunities to make payment toward her restitution but has continually failed to pay as ordered,” Donnell said in her objection to shock probation.