For misspending some $6,700 in federal funds earmarked for law enforcement and the “furtherance of justice,” former Ottawa County Sheriff Robert Bratton on Thursday was placed on probation for one year.
U.S. District Court Judge Jack Zouhary also ordered Bratton, 61, of Genoa, to pay a $1,000 fine.
“The court is satisfied this conduct was an aberration, if you will, a lapse of judgment,” the judge said.
Bratton, who was elected sheriff in 2004 and resigned in 2011 to become police chief in Genoa, pleaded guilty in January to theft concerning programs receiving federal funds for using money from the Furtherance of Justice Fund and a credit card linked to the account for clothing, prescription medication, and tickets to Cedar Point amusement park.
Bratton resigned in Genoa in January, ending a 40-year career in law enforcement.
“I wish you well,” Judge Zouhary said. “I think you have the ability to make up for this mistake to the community, and I have every confidence that you will.”
Before sentencing, Bratton’s attorney, Rick Kerger, told the court his client “made a horrible mistake, bad judgment, and has paid a substantial price already.”
Asked if he had anything to say, Bratton replied, “No. Just apologize.”
Judge Zouhary then asked what lesson he’d learned. Fighting back tears, Bratton said there were many. “It’s really changed my life in many different ways,” he said. “It’s not the way I wanted to end my career.”
He said he knew his career in law enforcement was over, but intended to “build myself back into something.” Though the charge carried a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, federal guidelines called for a zero to six month sentence for Bratton, in part because he had no criminal history, had taken responsibility, and had repaid all of the funds.
Bratton said after the hearing he learned the expenditures were inappropriate after state auditors brought it to his attention.
“I came forward with it. I stood up to my actions throughout this entire ordeal,” Bratton said. “It’s been embarrassing. It’s been hurtful. I’ve paid many different ways that people don’t even know. Reasons why? Things just got away from me, and there’s no excuse.”
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