A local accountant convicted in December of taking thousands of dollars from clients will spend the next three years in prison.
Warren H. Pennington, 62, received a 20-year sentence Jan. 5. Once released from custody, he must spend the remaining 17 years on probation.
The probation could be suspended after he pays $5,500 in fines, court costs and an undetermined amount of restitution.
Northeastern Judicial Circuit Judge Bonnie Oliver said she would hold a hearing in March if Pennington’s attorney and the Dawson County District Attorney’s office have not agreed on what he still owes his former clients.
A jury found Pennington guilty of five felony counts of theft by conversion and six felony counts of theft by taking in December.
Prosecutors argued he was responsible for funneling into his personal and business accounts thousands of dollars clients had placed in escrow to pay payroll taxes.
He faced a maximum sentence of 110 years.
Several former clients were in the courtroom last week for the sentencing hearing, many saying they were there on Pennington’s behalf.
Anna Williams, treasurer of the Dawson County Arts Council, which was listed as a victim in the case, spoke for the group. She said Pennington was “remorseful for the lack of oversight in his office.”
She asked that his sentence reflect his entire “contribution” to the community, not just the criminal proceedings.
Oliver said the sentence reflected both Pennington’s attempt to begin repaying clients, but also his refusal to accept blame for his actions.
“I believe that the defendant continues to exhibit a refusal or inability to accept responsibility,” Oliver said.
Pennington’s former office manager, Vivian Miles, was also arrested for taking funds from the accounting firm.
The investigation into Pennington followed Miles’ arrest.
Pennington, who did not testify during his trial, spoke briefly at the sentencing hearing.
“The only thing I’m worried about is how to pay it back when I get out,” he said.
As a condition of his sentence, Pennington had to relinquish his certified public accounting license.
“You are an educated, bright man and I’m sure that you’ll be able to determine how to best use your assets to produce income,” Oliver said.
District Attorney Lee Darragh said he was satisfied with the sentence.
“We appreciate the appropriate sentence rendered by [the judge], especially her formulation of a sentence that encourages Mr. Pennington to repay the money to the victims as quickly as possible,” he said.
Pennington’s attorney, Brett Turner, has filed a motion for a new trial.