DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — It doesn’t make a difference if a defendant is educated or elderly. In the end, crime doesn’t pay.
That was the message Justice William Anderson gave in Piscataquis County Superior Court on Thursday when he sentenced a 77-year-old former lawyer to 15 days in jail for theft by unauthorized taking.
Herbert Swartz, of Sebec, who pleaded guilty last month to taking more than $10,000 from an elderly, blind friend, was granted a stay in his incarceration until Feb. 15, which will allow him to proceed with a planned medical operation. He likely will serve his time in Piscataquis County Jail. He also was ordered to pay restitution of $11,500.
Swartz paid $5,000 toward the restitution Thursday after the court proceeding, and his former co-defendant in the case, Elizabeth “Bess” Cutler, 59, of Sebec, paid $3,000 toward the restitution last month. Swartz is to pay the remainder of his restitution by April 1.
Swartz and Cutler each initially had been charged with forgery and theft by unauthorized taking. Piscataquis County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy said the charges against Cutler were dropped last month when she paid the $3,000, and the forgery charge against Swartz was dropped in a plea bargain.
“My cup of shame runneth over, Your Honor,” Swartz said Thursday in the courtroom before he was sentenced. “I feel terribly, terribly, terribly humiliated and embarrassed.”
Investigator Guy Dow of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Department initially reported that the couple had taken more than $20,000 from the blind man’s accounts, but the results of a forensic examination showed the theft was $11,500. He said outside the courtroom Thursday that the examination indicated that Swartz had switched the blind man’s funds around among the victim’s five financial institutions to create confusion.
Swartz’s attorney, Richard McCarthy Jr., told Anderson that his client and the blind man had been friends since 2007 and that Swartz and Cutler had taken him on errands and had provided him companionship without any compensation. He said Swartz has no criminal record and that there were multiple transactions made be-tween the two men, including loans that were repaid. McCarthy suggested that his client’s depression and anxiety problems might have played a role in the theft at the tail end of their relationship.
Neither Almy nor McCarthy had recommended jail time for Swartz, based on his age and his health.
Anderson, however, said there needed to be some type of “general deterrence” in cases such as this. He said the theft was not done on the spur of the moment.
In his sentencing, Anderson took into consideration Swartz’s age and health, that much of the restitution had been made and that Swartz was remorseful.
“I actually think he is sorry,” the judge said of Swartz. He also noted that Swartz had been helpful to the victim up until the theft occurred.
Outside the courtroom, Cutler said she had no knowledge that Swartz had taken any money from the blind man.
An attempt to photograph Swartz outside the courthouse was unsuccessful when the elderly man grabbed a reporter’s camera.