Judge J. Thomas Marten seemed to anticipate someone would misconstrue his sentencing Thursday of a former Wichita city employee.
Marten told a former municipal court collections officer she would spend five years on probation for altering computer records so bondsmen could avoid paying forfeitures.
But because Kaylene J. "Katie" Pottorff, 54, wasn't going to prison, Marten took the time to explain how seriously probation restricts her freedom.
If she doesn't comply with conditions the judge set out, including making payments on nearly $500,000 in restitution to the city, she will face five years in prison.
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"She can be back in here facing the same sentence, even if it's 4 years, 11 months into her probation," Marten said. "Here, you're facing up to 10 years if you violate your probation. I think that's some incentive right there."
Marten pointed out that Pottorff had no criminal history before she and two others were indicted in May 2009 by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy, altering criminal justice records and receiving bribes.
Pottorff pleaded guilty in August to altering court records for bondsmen and bounty hunters.
Alicia Bell, 37, pleaded guilty to bribery in February. In October, Marten sentenced Bell to five years' probation and ordered $185,125 in restitution.
Bell said in her plea that she paid Pottorff to change records to avoid paying bond forfeitures. Investigators say Bell used the records to get more money from her mother, owner of the bonding company.
Jessie Garland, 43, is set for sentencing this morning before Marten. She pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to commit fraud against a bonding company.
Marten said that during Pottorff's probation she had to make payments of at least 5 percent of her income toward restitution of $469,525.
The judge also advised Pottorff that she will have to continue to pay the balance after her probation ends.
Pottorff also is required to maintain a full-time job, which he acknowledged would be difficult for her as a convicted felon during a recession with already high unemployment.
Marten said Pottorff had mental health issues which affected her actions.
"She was a person who was a pretty easy target for anyone wanting to prey on her," Marten said.
Marten said that wasn't an excuse but helped explain her criminal actions.
Pottorff said she had worked her way off welfare into the city clerk's office.
"I clawed my way up," she told the judge, while apologizing to the city officials. She said she ruined "the best job and the best opportunity I ever had in my life."
Marten was correct in assuming his sentence would be challenged.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson said the government would seek an appeal Marten's decision not to send Pottorff to prison because of her betrayal of public trust.
"This sentence will deter no one," Anderson said.
Defense attorney Tim Henry argued that Pottorff needed treatment she couldn't receive in prison.
Marten required Pottorff to continue psychological and substance abuse treatment and to refrain from using alcohol, unless approved by her mental health provider.
"I don't want anyone to leave here, especially you, Ms. Pottorff, believing for one moment that I'm looking at your conduct as being excused or condoned," Marten said. "But I have determined this sentence is appropriate for your case.
"Probation is not a carrot — it is a big stick," Marten said.