Effingham Daily News
The former Effingham County jailer accused of stealing thousands of dollars in bail money from the county jail last year avoided a felony charge as the result of a negotiated plea announced Monday.
Felony charges of theft and official misconduct against Jason L. Thompson, 41, were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on a misdemeanor theft charge. As a result of the plea, Thompson began serving 180 days in the Shelby County Jail on Monday. He was also fined $250 and ordered to perform 100 hours of public service work.
Thompson, of rural Teutopolis, was also ordered to pay $24,619 in restitution to the county. Effingham County State's Attorney Bryan Kibler said Thompson would give the county his payoff of about $8,800 from the state employee retirement program, as well as any income tax refunds for this and future years until the full amount is paid.
Thompson had originally been accused of stealing nearly $4,000 from the jail during a six-month period last year. But Kibler said a more detailed investigation showed a higher amount.
Judge Ericka Sanders accepted the deal during a brief Monday morning hearing in Effingham County Circuit Court.
Kibler said after the hearing that he agreed to spare Thompson the stigma of a felony conviction for a variety of reasons.
"We will have more than half the restitution amount in 30 days," he said. "Furthermore, he accepted his guilt immediately and has no criminal record."
Kibler said the lack of a felony conviction will enable Thompson to more effectively seek employment once he has served his jail time.
"Unlike many people who pass through the system, Mr. Thompson is highly employable," the prosecutor said. "This (deal) essentially allows him to seek a high-paying job that will enable him to pay back his restitution."
Also as part of the deal, Thompson submitted a letter to the editor to the Effingham Daily News that is being published on today's opinion page, page A5. Defense attorney Scott Ealy said the letter was essentially "a letter of apology to the people of Effingham County."
Ealy said during the hearing that Monday was "a very sad day in my client's life."
"But he believes he is doing the very best thing he can do," Ealy added. "He has dealt with this situation in a contrite and appropriate manner."
Thompson declined comment after the hearing.
Detective Thad Brockett of the Effingham County Sheriff's Department said Monday procedures are in place to prevent a repeat of the Thompson incident.
"We have restricted access to bail money," Brockett said.
Brockett said Sheriff John Monnet hasn't decided whether he wants to install cameras in the area where bail money is handled.
"We do have cameras in the jail, and we may install more cameras, but we haven't gotten to that point yet," he said.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.