Tina Harnois will
serve year in jail By David Lias
Plain Talk Tina Harnois, 41, the former program manager of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce and Development Company (VCDC), was sentenced to serve a total of one year in the South Dakota State Penitentiary Aug. 8 by Circuit Court Judge Arthur Rusch. Harnois had pleaded guilty to one count of forgery and one count of grand theft last May to avoid a jury trial. Rusch sentenced her to a five year penitentiary term on the forgery charge, with four years suspended. Harnois was also ordered to serve a 10 year sentence on the grand theft charge, with nine years suspended. Conditions of the suspended sentences include: â�?¢ Being placed on probation for four years for the forgery charge and nine years for the grand theft charge. â�?¢ Making restitution to the VCDC in the amount of $27,788.31 less whatever amount the VCDC is able to recover from their bonding company. â�?¢ Awarding a civil judgement to the VCDC against Harnois in the sum of $15,794 covering the cost of the audit necessary to determine the amount which was stolen. â�?¢ Repaying the state of South Dakota costs of prosecution totaling $64.30 for transcripts and $100 for a computer download. Harnois avoided a jury trial by agreeing May 16 to enter guilty pleas to two of a long list of charges. Harnois was indicted by a Clay County grand jury in early January of 28 counts of forgery and one count of grand theft. She pleaded not guilty to those charges before Rusch in mid-February. Her jury trial was scheduled to begin May 19. Harnois' attorney, Lee McCahren, and State's Attorney Teddi Gertsma agreed that in exchange for Harnois' guilty plea to two counts in her grand jury indictment, the remaining 27 counts would be dropped. Harnois agreed to waive her right to a jury trial by pleading guilty to a forgery count in the indictment. This counts states that on or about Dec. 1, 2006, Harnois committed forgery by writing a check to her daughter, Michelle Harnois, in the amount of $825 on the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and Development Company's (VCDC's) checking account. Harnois told Rusch in May that she, not her daughter, cashed the check and kept the funds. She also said she had no authority to write the check. She also pleaded guilty to grand theft. Between November 2006 and November 2007, Harnois committed grand theft by taking over $1,000 belonging to the VCDC. "That came about because I took liberties â�?¦ and took amounts of money out of petty cash over $1,000," she told Rusch last May. Harnois was taken into custody by local police on Jan. 8 and remained free on $10,000 bond, after depositing 10 percent of that amount, or $1,000, with the Clay County clerk of courts. Her indictment came after an investigation by Vermillion police in November 2007, when the VCDC board of directors discovered financial discrepancies. Harnois forged 28 checks on the VCDC's checking account between Nov. 1, 2006, and Nov. 2, 2007. Thirteen of the checks were written to her, according to the indictment. Others were written to individuals or businesses. According to a Jan. 10 Vermillion Police Department press release, the total amount stolen was $27,788.31. Forgery is a Class 5 felony, punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in the state penitentiary and a $10,000 fine. The grand theft charge is a more serious Class 4 felony, with a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. Rusch included the following additional conditions in Harnois' reduced penitentiary terms: â�?¢ She shall be under the supervision of the chief court service officer of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. â�?¢ She shall obey all federal, state and local laws. â�?¢ She shall not consume any alcoholic beverages of any kind, or use or possess any controlled drugs or substances. She also shall submit to urinalysis, breath or blood testing at any time requested. â�?¢ She shall pay all fines and restitution ordered by the court. â�?¢ She shall avail herself of all drug, alcohol and gambling treatment available while incarcerated. She shall continue all recommended aftercare upon her release. â�?¢ She shall be subject to random search and seizure by her probation or parole officer, or any law enforcement officer, upon reasonable suspicion that she is violating any provision of her sentence. â�?¢ Unless attending an approved educational or training program, she must work regularly to support her dependents to the best of her ability. â�?¢ She shall not participate in any form of gambling of any kind.
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