Former Marion Fair Board member placed on probationary period, not jail

REED CITY  — No additional jail time will be imposed at this time for a former Marion Fair Board member charged with embezzlement.

Rebecca Jeanne Johnson, 43, of Marion, was sentenced on Friday in Osceola County’s 49th Circuit Court, receiving a one-year delay of sentence. She also was sentenced to time served, given credit for one day spent in jail.

A delay of sentence is a probationary period, deferring a defendant’s sentence until a later date and giving them a chance to meet certain conditions. Oftentimes, if the defendant fulfills the stipulations surrounding the probation, the charge can be reduced or completely cleared from a person’s record. However, the delay of sentence is not a final sentence, and if Johnson is unsuccessful, she could face additional punishment.  

Johnson was arrested in February and charged with one count of embezzlement by an agent or trustee of more than $20,000, but less than $50,000. In August, Johnson pleaded guilty to an added count of embezzlement of more than $1,000 but less than $20,000. In exchange for pleading to the lesser charge, her initial charge was dismissed.

Johnson is accused of embezzling from the fair from January 2014 to September 2015, according to court documents.

In September 2015, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the Marion Fair Board after exhibitors from the July 2015 fair reported they had not received their money from the sale of livestock.

Once the investigation began, the board’s president, along with Johnson, who served as treasurer, resigned from their positions. In October 2015, a restructured Marion Fair Board was able to pay the more than $37,500 owed to 39 kids awaiting their checks.

During Friday’s hearing, Osceola County Prosecutor Tyler Thompson asked the judge to go along with the delay of sentence, but also wanted to leave open the possibility for Johnson to serve more time in jail after the one-year period.

Johnson’s attorney, Erin Barnhart, reminded the court the entire amount of money taken has already been paid back. 

“Ms. Johnson made a mistake and is doing everything she can to make reparations for that mistake,” Barnhart said. “We feel the recommendation for the delay is appropriate. I’m confident Ms. Johnson will continue to be an asset to the community and I’m also confident Ms. Johnson will have no violations on the delay.”

Judge Scott Hill-Kennedy said it was not appropriate during the delay period to impose jail. As part of her delay conditions, Johnson will not be allowed to be employed in a position where she has control or access to other people’s money, unless specifically granted permission by her probation agent.

Johnson did not make a statement to the court during her sentencing. The court will evaluate Johnson’s progress on the delay in about 10 months.