Judge Jack Skeen Jr. sentenced a Tyler woman who pleaded guilty to a charge of theft by check on Thursday to 15 months in a state jail facility.
Ms. Johnson has a history of writing bad checks in Smith County 1987 to 2009 and served jail time on several of those offenses, prosecutor Jason Parrish said in the 241st District Court on Thursday.
Parrish argued for the maximum amount of time for Ms. Johnson, which is two years in a state jail facility for the crime.
Ms. Johnson, founder and CEO of the Tyler nonprofit organization Sisters in Christ, told the Tyler Morning Telegraph in July the felony theft by case was taken care of, and she would pay back all the money after a charity event in which Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry was billed as the big draw. The charity event and the felony theft charge are unrelated.
The charity event, scheduled to take place in July at The Cascades Golf Club in Tyler, originally was billed to feature Ms. Berry, along with a professional football player, actor and a comedian.
Ms. Berry’s agent said in July, though, that the star was busy filming a movie.
A news release sent later from Ms. Johnson stated that a fundraising dinner and dance to benefit the renovation of the Tysen House, a shelter for battered women, would feature comedian Gayle Palitz and take place at the Staybridge Suites on McDonald Road in Tyler. That release made no mention of Ms. Berry.
Jeff Shirley, sales manager at the Staybridge Suites, confirmed in a phone call July 16 that the event took place on that day but could not confirm if Ms. Palitz appeared.
Ms. Johnson testified Thursday that she had been working with the Smith County District Attorney’s Office in 2009 to pay back money she owed when she lost her job at a home health agency and was unable to find another one. She said her husband then died from stomach cancer, and that her sole source of income is her husband’s Social Security benefits of $1,439 each month.
During the hearing, Skeen, along with Parrish and defense attorney Clifton Roberson, discussed Ms. Johnson’s ability to pay the $10,000 restitution if she were to receive probation. Parrish expressed doubt that Ms. Johnson would be able to pay a $250 monthly charge to the District Attorney’s Office over a five-year period on a monthly income of $1,439.
Ms. Johnson also testified that she had a brain tumor. Roberson presented medical records to the court from East Texas Medical Center showing that doctors there had referred her to a hospital in Dallas for treatment for people who have no insurance.
“She will receive treatment at the taxpayer’s expense either way — whether she is in jail or going to the hospital,” Parrish said in court.