Effingham Daily News
The support of the library district she stole from and ill effects of medication led to a milder sentence for a former St. Elmo library director Friday.
Terri Gillespie received a 30-day jail sentence despite recommendations from both state and defense attorneys and medical professionals she not be incarcerated.
The day-for-day sentence, along with one-day credit from when she was arrested, means Gillespie will only serve 14 days, beginning next week.
Gillespie was sentenced Friday in Fayette County Circuit Court after she pled guilty to a Class 1 felony theft charge for stealing $50,548 between July 1, 2009, and July 20, 2011. The charge is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, but Gillespie’s medical issues, as well as a resolution from library board members unanimously stating they did not want her imprisoned, only restitution, factored into Judge Allan Lolie’s decision for a much lesser sentence.
“You have a lot of friends, and they all came forward, even victims. You’re obviously well liked,” he said.
Nearly 20 family members and supporters turned out for the hearing Friday. Even St. Elmo Library District trustee Kathy Spitler testified to Gillespie’s character when asked if Gillespie was doing a good job as a library director.
“She was excellent,” said Spitler, adding Gillespie had secured several large grants for the district during her employment.
However, Spitler also testified the district had to borrow money against future tax revenue and deal with a large number of back book bills following her termination. Furthermore, library trustees, who are all volunteer, were forced to take on additional responsibilities.
“We had to take up the slack and do the stuff she was doing before,” said Spitler.
Fayette County State’s Attorney Stephen Friedel said not only were library trustees victims, but taxpayers of the library district as well.
“She was trusted with the power and authority of overseeing funding for the district, and she violated that trust,” he said.
Friedel also pointed out although she confessed to the theft, she didn’t do so until after being confronted following an investigation.
Also, she began to pay back a portion of the the $86,657 she originally stole by depositing personal checks into the library’s account shortly before the investigation.
Even that, Friedel argued, was only to avoid an investigation.
“She’s taken money over a course of time and starts to pay it back. The reason is because the kitty is empty,” he said.
But it was Gillespie’s medication to treat a condition known as restless leg syndrome that her attorney argued may have led to her criminal actions and bizarre behavior during that time.
Attorney Peter Wise said there is growing evidence the medication she was taking to treat the sleep disorder, Mirapex and Requip, may cause compulsive behaviors related to shopping or gambling.
“A fiscal conservative, Terri is all of the sudden buying lavish vacations, big screen TVs and giving them to family members,” he said.
Lolie also referred to the side effect and Gillespie’s uncharacteristic behavior.
“When you watch TV drug ads and they read the possible side effects, they make you smile. You think that’s ridiculous,” he said.
But Lolie said letters from family members stated Gillespie was buying several pairs of shoes, some of the same but in different colors, and giving them away and buying family members big screen TVs.
“Spending money with reckless abandonment had never been in her prior history,” he said.
Lolie also believed Gillespie’s other medical ailments, including lupus, diabetes, generalized anxiety and sleep apnea, to name a few, would endanger her medical condition.
That aside, he said, the crime and publicity it’s drawn are punishment.
“She’s ruined her reputation. No one will hire her to handle money,” he said.
Wise attested to Gillespie’s character since she was arrested.
“She’s continued to work and volunteers in the community,” he said, referring to a nursing facility where she teaches residents to knit.
“It’s not whether she got knocked down. It’s whether she gets back up. Terri Gillespie knocked herself down in the worst possible way, but she got back up,” he said.
In sentencing Gillespie, Lolie included 100 hours of public service, in addition to four years of probation and 120 days of electronically monitored home confinement at a cost of $10 per day.
Gillespie also is ordered to pay $45,548 in restitution after submitting a $5,000 check earlier this week. She plans to sell inventory from a yarn business she owns to help make restitution. Until then, she was ordered to pay $500 a month.
Gillespie apologized during the hearing Friday.
“I can’t express how sorry I am,” she said. “I never meant to hurt the library. I’ll never forget hurting something I worked so hard for and loved so much. ... I never wanted to do that.”