NEWPORT, Maine — A former employee of the Maine court system was sentenced Thursday in District Court to 60 days in jail for attempting to steal state funds and trying to cover it up.
Danielle A. Beckwith, 48, of Hampden, who worked as the supervisor of the Office of Transcript Production, located at the Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor, was found guilty June 30 of one count of attempted theft by deception and two counts of tampering with public records following a four-hour jury-waived trial.
“I’m very sorry that my actions inadvertently placed me in this position,” she said Thursday. “The incident will not define me. I still have good to do and I plan to go forward with my life.”
She was released on $1,500 unsecured bail pending an appeal of her conviction to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Beckwith was charged a year ago. The conduct that led to the charges occurred Oct. 10 and 17, 2012, according to the complaint dated July 18, 2013.
Because of possible conflicts of interest, retired District Court Judge John V. Romei, who presided in Washington County for 21 years, handled the case in Newport District Court.
In sentencing Beckwith, Romei admonished her for not taking responsibility for her actions and for lying on the stand.
“The biggest aggravating factor is that the defendant perjured herself,” the judge said. “Her testimony was preposterous.”
Lisa Morgan of Auburn addressed the judge on behalf of state workers. Morgan works at the District Court in Lewiston but spoke Thursday on behalf of the Maine State Employees Association. She said that Beckwith’s behavior “undermined the public’s trust of public employees.”
Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin recommended Beckwith be sentenced to 90 days in jail.
Robbin said the 60-day sentence was “entirely appropriate,” after it was imposed.
Defense attorney Marvin Glazier of Bangor urged the judge to impose less jail time but did not suggest a specific amount.
Glazier declined late Thursday afternoon to comment on the sentence.
Beckwith faced up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.
At her trial, Beckwith took the stand in her own defense and denied she was trying to steal from the court system.
In a tape played for Romei at her trial, Beckwith told Detective Peter Lizanecz, an investigator with the Maine attorney general’s office, she received a phone call from a man who identified himself by name demanding a large refund for overpayment for the production of a transcript. She told the detective she did not investigate who he was until after the refund check was issued.
Beckwith’s oldest child goes by the same name as the caller, the defendant and others testified. The refund check for $2,750, which never was cashed, was made out to that name.
She testified she put through the paperwork for the refund assuming she eventually would find the supporting documents.
Beckwith said the demand for payment came at a chaotic time for the office, when courtroom recording equipment statewide was transitioning from cassette tapes to digital recording and the typing of transcripts was being outsourced to a private firm in Arizona.
Under cross-examination, Beckwith admitted she was more than $34,000 in debt after her divorce a couple of years earlier. She said it was “manageable,” and she was working to pay it off.
Transcript overpayments are common, retired transcriptionist Brenda Cheney of Brewer, who worked with Beckwith, testified. When the production of a transcript from a tape recording of a hearing or jury-waived trial was ordered, employees estimated how many pages long it would be using a formula based on how much tape was used. Employees then sent an invoice to the person requesting the transcript, billing at $3 per page.
Once a check was received, the transcript was produced and sent out, Cheney said. If a refund was due because the transcriptionist overestimated the cost, a check was requested from the Administrative Office of the Court in Portland. That check was sent to the transcription office, where employees mailed it to the person or firm that requested and paid for the transcript, documenting the refund had been sent, she said.
Beckwith testified it was her intent to return the check to the Portland office because she could not verify an order ever had been placed for a transcript.
Her deception was uncovered by her office mates, who noticed when the check came in that it was made out to Beckwith’s child. Mary Jane Bureau of Glenburn, who worked for Beckwith when the attempted theft happened, testified she decided to investigate on her own to see if she could find the paperwork related to the refund request, which was signed by Beckwith, and the original transcript order.
The day after the check arrived, Oct. 18, 2012, she reported her suspicions to Rick Record, director of court operations. The next day, he came to the courthouse with Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross and escorted Beckwith out of the building. Her employment officially ended Nov. 21, 2012, Mary Ann Lynch, spokesperson for the court system, said last year.
Beckwith was hired as a court reporter July 9, 1990, Lynch said last year in an email. She left that position on Dec. 12, 1995, but was rehired as a transcriber on July 11, 2005. She was promoted to supervisor on July 28, 2008.
On Oct. 10, 2004, Beckwith was charged with theft by unauthorized taking, a Class E crime, according to court documents. She pleaded no contest Jan. 27, 2005, and paid a $200 fine.
Lynch previously declined to comment on Beckwith’s employment history. The court system’s spokeswoman on Thursday declined to comment on Beckwith’s conviction and sentence.