Almost a year after it began, the investigation of former Whitehall town clerk Janet Jillson ended with three words.
“Guilty, your honor.”
Jillson plead to third degree grand larceny on Friday, Dec. 5 in front of Justice John Hall in Washington County Superior Court, ending an almost 12-month investigation that started in mid-December of 2007.
“I stole town money,” said Jillson to Hall during the courtroom session.
“She has paid the restitution which was calculated by the Comptroller’s office already,” said Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright.
“That goes a long way towards a good result here,” said Hall, who ordered Jillson to return to the courthouse for sentencing on May 15 at 3 p.m.
Until sentencing, Hall ordered Jillson to take part in the alternative sentencing program through Washington County, which will include her calling in to the county daily to an alternative sentencing officer and performing 10 hours of community service weekly for the next 15 weeks.
Hall said that he could have made Jillson post bail or ordered her to court, but felt that the alternative sentencing program best suit her.
“I don’t have to do that,” said Hall. “But I don’t feel that you are a flight risk. I think that you are the least likely of a flight risk. You just need to make sure that you do what you need to, which includes daily reporting with part of that being community service.”
Hall said that there will be a pre-sentencing investigation report completed between now and May 15, with Hall then deciding on a sentence depending on the report and Jillson’s adhearance to the terms of her alternative sentencing.
On May 15, Jillson could face up to six months in Washington County Jail and five years probation.
“My understanding is that she will plead guilty to the State Comptroller’s information,” said Kortright about the plea arrangement. “If she does everything, the People will be asking for six months in jail and five years probation, and the defense will be asking for probation only.”
“This will cover any charges from 2003 until 2007, when Miss Jillson was in the elected position as town clerk in the town of Whitehall,” said Jillson Lawyer Larry Elman.
Hall asked Jillson if she understood that by pleading to the count of third degree grand larceny, she would be waiving her right to an appeal, to which Elman asked if the plea was with the Washington County DA or an open appeal to the court.
“The People are capping the prison term to six months, but in return, they are asking for a waiver of the appeal on this charge,” said Hall. “She is not going to serve any more than six months in Washington County Jail. If the pre-sentencing comes back that she was a mass-murderer, then I will decide that this was not an acceptable sentence and we would throw this plea out and start again.”
After the court session, Elman discussed the details of Jillson’s case.
“Bascially, some money would come out, and some would go back in,” said Elman. “I don’t want to say that she used it as a convenient slush fund, there just came a time where she made a bad decision.”
Elman also said that Jillson in no way blamed the town for any of her actions.
“There were safeguards and policies in place,” said Elman. “In no way does she blame the town. From the day I met her, she has been willing to take responsibility and regardless of what happened to the money, she is responsible.”
Elman said that he could not comment if that was the reason Jillson hired him in place of Tucker Stanclift, who stated that “You can’t expect someone to follow rules or policy that is unknown or unwritten,” in August when the Comptroller’s report was released.
“I can’t speak to that,” said Elman.
Elman also talked about the $1,000 that Jillson reportedly “overpaid” to the town.
“That extra $1,000 because they had discussed that there could be extra fees that the town would incur and she gave the money to them,” said Elman. “She does not want anything back.
“She has done a lot of good things, but that does not excuse what she did,” Elman added. “She has regretted that this occurred since before the day it came to light.”
Elman also said that he was pleased with Hall’s response when Kortright informed him that restitution had already been made.
“I think the judge took consideration of that fact,” he said. “I think he mentioned that fact twice in court.”
Kortright said that his office would push for jail time at the May 15 sentencing.
“She should have to spend some time in jail,” he said.
Jillson resigned her position as town clerk in Whitehall on Dec. 17, 2007. A state auditor was called in the following week to review the financial records of the town, which showed that JIllson had taken over $92,000 of town funds, while having re-paid over $68,000 over the same period of time.