According to Cleveland.com, a white woman accused of embezzling almost $250,000 in public funds was on Monday, Aug. 2, sentenced to two years of probation, while the same court sentenced a Black woman who stole $40,000 from another public institution to 18 months in prison the next day.
This has re-ignited calls to address the issues of sentencing disparity and implement a statewide sentencing database in Ohio.
Both women were sentenced in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court by different judges.
Debbie Bosworth, the white woman who stole over $240,000 in the space of 20 years while working as a clerk at the Chagrin Falls village utilities and building departments, was indicted on 22 counts by a grand jury and made arrangements to refund the stolen funds. She issued a check for an outstanding balance of $100,000 when she was sentenced on Monday to probation, despite the prosecution asking the presiding judge to hand Bosworth a prison sentence.
Meanwhile, Karla Hopkins, the Black woman who was accused of stealing $42,000 in dues and fees from students and teachers while employed as a secretary and executive assistant at Maple Heights High School, was sentenced to 18 months behind bars. Hopkins told the judge that she drained her $20,000 pension money to sort out the bills she owed following her dismissal from the school. Her attorney, Bret Jordan, said Hopkins was suffering from mental health issues and a gambling addiction around the time of her stealing the money.
Jordan highlighted how Hopkins sought treatment for the issue and was involved in a job placement program. He also added that Hopkins managed to raise $5,000 in her efforts to refund the stolen money.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor James Gutierrez, who was involved in Hopkins case, told the judge that the state preferably wanted her to serve a prison sentence of “not less than 9 months and not more than a year,” according to Cleveland.com, the accused was handed out double the time behind bars.
Note that Bosworth was reportedly facing either probation or over 60 years in prison for her case, while Hopkins was looking at probation or up to three years behind bars.
“It’s kind of hard to figure how you can end up with results that are so different for similar kinds of actions,” former Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Ronald Adrine told Cleveland.com. “Cases like these point out the need for the system to do a better job of reviewing the data because there’s lots of disparity between the way that people of color and white people are treated. But it doesn’t get captured because nobody’s really looking.”There are 34 judges within the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, yet only 10 have so far expressed their willingness to join the Ohio Sentencing Data Platform. The aim of the program is to provide a database they can fall on for reference if they want to compare similar cases and their average sentences.
“I think it reinforces the lack of trust in the justice system,” Danielle Sydnor, the president of NAACP’s Cleveland branch, commented.
“These types of things are the way the system was designed, and they will continue to happen if we don’t have large-scale reform.”