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Judge rejects ex-clerk’s guilty plea

McCord will be back in Superior Court next month

POSTED: September 16, 2011 3:57 p.m.

Former Dawson County Clerk of Courts Becky McCord will be back in Superior Court next month after a judge on Friday rejected her guilty plea on theft by taking and violation of oath of office charges.

Northeastern Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin did not publicly say why she refused to accept the plea, which had been negotiated and approved by both the state and McCord's attorneys.

According to the proposed negotiated plea agreement, the sentence would have run concurrent with McCord's federal prison time.

McCord, 62, was sentenced to 24 months on tax evasion and bankruptcy fraud charges Wednesday in federal court in Gainesville. She pleaded guilty to those charges in June.

"I am so sorry for the pain, hurt and humiliation I caused the people around me," McCord said Wednesday before Senior U.S. District Judge William C. O'Kelley handed down the federal sentence. "... they have the right to expect more from a public servant. I know I have failed."

O'Kelley said McCord's role as a public official was not considered in the sentencing.

"There's been a lot of talk about her as a public official. This court shouldn't take that into consideration," O'Kelley said Wednesday. "I'm not sentencing on that. That's up to Dawson County."

McCord is accused of taking more than $140,000 from the Dawson County Clerk of Courts office, where she had served for more than 17 years. She was arrested in February 2010 and resigned the next month.

The rejected plea agreement presented on Friday would have been contingent upon McCord paying Dawson County $15,000 in restitution by Oct. 7. The county has already received insurance payments that cover the theft. The $15,000 represents the county's insurance deductible.

"The core of this case is public corruption," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Grimberg. "For three years she used her Dawson County account as her personal piggy bank. She used that money to fund her lifestyle."

According to authorities, McCord as clerk of courts was entitled to nearly $60,000 of fees paid to her office for issuing passports between 2004-09.

During that same time period, however, investigators say McCord wrote checks to herself on a civil account that totaled more than $211,000.

Dawson authorities began investigating McCord after learning Donna Sheriff, her chief deputy clerk, had written two dozen checks to a former contract worker on a court's account.

Both Sheriff and the contract worker, Justin Disharoon, pleaded guilty to theft charges in 2010. Their sentencing has been delayed until McCord's case is settled.

Northeastern Judicial District Attorney Lee Darragh declined to comment on the state's case against McCord.

 

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