Despite not repaying any of the $389,000 she stole from her clients, former lawyer Karyn McConnell Hancock was freed Wednesday from the remainder of her prison sentence for aggravated theft.
McConnell Hancock, a former Toledo councilman, was given "judicial release" by Judge David Faulkner, who handled her case on assignment from the Ohio Supreme Court.
She served less than half the four-year sentence that Judge Faulkner, a retired Hardin County Common Pleas judge, ordered in January, 2009.
In granting the former attorney's request to leave prison, Judge Faulkner said the 19 months she had spent behind bars had served the purposes of rehabilitation, punishment, deterring others from similar crimes, and protecting the public.
"After a while, punishment becomes counterproductive," Judge Faulkner said. "The court is of the opinion that is the situation in this case. Nineteen months in prison, in the court's judgment in this instance, is sufficient to warrant the title of sufficient punishment."
McConnell Hancock, 40, the divorced mother of two children, admitted to stealing more than $624,000 from 22 clients over six years and entered into a plea agreement in November, 2008, after a months-long investigation by the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office.
Authorities said she would pay money into an attorney escrow fund account for clients of her Michigan Avenue law practice and divert some of the funds for personal use.
She ultimately paid back some of the stolen funds with other accounts. The thefts occurred between Jan. 1, 2002, and Nov. 30, 2007.
"You have a lot to live down. You have a lot to live up to. The court is hopeful you will be able to do that in the years to come," Judge Faulkner told her.
In lieu of serving the rest of her sentence, McConnell Hancock was ordered to remain under the court's supervision on community control, often referred to as probation.
Judge Faulkner told her to perform 300 hours of community service and warned her that she could be sent back to prison to serve the remaining two years and five months of her original sentence if she doesn't comply with the community-control program.
McConnell Hancock told the judge that the time spent in prison set the stage for her to make improvements in her life and she was prepared to move on.
"At this point, I am ready to make those changes that need to be done and especially be home with my children," she said. "The past 19 months have been not an easy time. It has been a rough journey at times. Sometimes I thought I wouldn't make it. Other times, I had more strength. But I did make it. I realized what brought me to that point was me. I have no one to blame but me."
McConnell Hancock's father, Toledo Municipal Judge C. Allen McConnell, was not in the courtroom for the hearing. However, other family members attended the proceeding.
Asked by Judge Faulkner about her plans, McConnell Hancock said she planned to live with her parents and find a job.
"I have a couple people who have expressed an interest in hiring me," she said.
J. Christopher Anderson, an assistant county prosecutor, said none of the clients who McConnell Hancock defrauded were in court for the hearing.
At her sentencing, Judge Faulkner had ordered McConnell Hancock to pay $389,000 in restitution to the Client's Security Fund of Ohio, the state Supreme Court's program that reimburses clients for fraudulent actions and misconduct of their attorneys.
The fund receives money from attorney license fees.
Defense attorney Jerome Phillips said in an interview that his client has not madepayments on the restitution amount but that she hopes to begin making payments after she's employed.
So far, 10 clients of the former lawyer have been reimbursed $154,080.53 from the fund.
Mr. Phillips said in court that nearly 90 percent of the claims made by her former clients have been settled and four additional disbursements to clients are pending before the client security fund board.
"Through the fund the attorney general is charged with the obligation of obtaining reimbursement from [lawyers] who cause the [Client's Security Fund] to pay out funds," Mr. Phillips said. "With all that being said, this individual is an appropriate candidate. This is the type of person judicial release was intended for."
McConnell Hancock was licensed in Ohio as an attorney in 1998 after she graduated from law school at Case Western Reserve University.
She submitted her resignation to practice law in April, 2008, upon her conviction in Toledo Municipal Court for fabricating a story of being kidnapped from downtown Toledo and dropped off in Georgia in early November, 2007.
Judge Faulkner, who was assigned to that case, sentenced her to two years probation with a suspended three-month jail sentence, $300 fine, and 40 hours of community service for misdemeanor making false alarms.
McConnell Hancock said that while housed at the Franklin Prerelease Center in Columbus she participated in a program for the inmates and she hopes that she can return to the institution to work as a volunteer.
"Having been there and lived with these women, I know the issues that they dealt with. Much of them are way more severe than what I have dealt with personally," she said.
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