Goelze gives no explanations for thefts
The question on the minds of Jefferson County Sheriff's Office employees wasn't answered in Jefferson County Circuit Court on Friday, March 20.
The sheriff's union's former treasurer, 46-year-old Jennifer Goelze, of Madras, was sentenced to 39 months in prison for stealing more than $60,000 over the course of four years. She entered a guilty plea to seven counts of first-degree theft. Her plea deal included the dismissal of nine counts of first-degree theft and two counts of second-degree theft.
"No one understands why," said Crook County District Attorney Wade Whiting, who prosecuted the case. He said that is what will bother victims the most.
"This is really a case of really shocking betrayal," Whiting said.
Goelze was a records deputy with the sheriff's office, and he said the union's lack of procedural safeguards was a testament to members' trust of Goelze.
Goelze had plenty of opportunities to stop and think about her actions, but she didn't, Whiting said. Nor did she ever try to put money back in the accounts she had stolen from.
The account was down to a little more than $5,000 at the time of her last theft, Whiting said.
"Clearly this scheme was collapsing on itself," he said.
He then invited sheriff's employees to speak.
Deputy Sheryl Blackman read a letter from Deputy Cody Smith.
Smith said Goelze "was held in high regard by her co-workers."
He said the sheriff's office is "like a family, and Jennifer was no different."
He said she "came to work and looked us all square in the eye," and he called her actions disgusting.
"She passed judgment on those who committed crimes far less serious," Smith's letter said.
"Jennifer has spat in the face" of her co-workers, he said.
Blackman said Goelze received three or four packages from Amazon every day full of "little crap" -- things from Pampered Chef, princess stuff, jeans with sparkles and Converse for her kids.
"She has literally nothing to show for it," Blackman said, adding that Goelze did not pay off her house or her car, so they cannot be seized to make restitution.
Blackman also said Goelze wasn't working for what was best for union members, knowing that the union wouldn't have enough money to pay attorneys to negotiate for better salaries and benefits.
She said each employee would get $100 at Christmas for a turkey or meal, but that won't happen this year.
"She's basically saying, 'My need to have new jeans is more important than your need to feed your family,'" Blackman said.
Blackman said the sheriff's office doesn't think Goelze should get special treatment, and she was worried about public perception that Goelze was getting a break because she worked for the office.
"We need to trust our government, and when the government acts badly" it should be held to a higher standard, Blackman said.
She said the office should be given some immediate restitution, even a small amount.
Deputy Melody Zistel said the sheriff's office employees see each other day, sometimes more than they see their own families, and they feel like a family.
"I really felt like I was kicked in the gut," she said. "I believe restitution needs to be made."
Then Zistel spoke directly to Goelze.
"I forgive you," she said. "I don't think you've asked for it, but I forgive you."
She told Goelze she wants to see her do better, and she expressed sympathy for Goelze's family, saying she knows they are hurting.
"We're all hurting," she said.
Goelze's attorney, Jennifer Kimble, opened by saying that in another similar case in the county -- alluding to Misty Foster's case -- the person received no prison time. But Goelze will serve time.
"She's not asking for a day less," Kimble said. "She has no excuse for her conduct. She offers no excuse. She simply did a bad thing ... She could not be more sorry."
Judge Annette Hillman asked Goelze if she wanted to make a statement.
"No, Your Honor," Goelze replied.
"In part, I think that's a little disappointing for those that are present," Hillman said.
"You're held to a higher standard," she continued. "There has to be checks and balances."
She told Goelze that in some ways, it must feel good to have the cycle of thefts end.
She also told her that she needed to move forward and be an example to her children and family.
Hillman then read each count, explaining the consequence of each.
Then Deputy Joseph Mead asked her a series of questions and took her through a door to the right.
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