We’re nearly as repelled by Vicky Capetillo’s self-satisfied smirk in her jail mug shot as by what she did to the good people of Grovetown. Over and over and over again.
If you’re innocent, you should look absolutely horrified in a mug shot. If you’re guilty, it’s a poke in the eye to society – and a sign of callous remorselessness – to sport a smug smile upon your arrest.
Of course, we now know after her plea on Monday that Capetillo is guilty as can be. She says so herself – though U.S. District Judge Randal Hall practically had to drag it out of her to admit her repeated thefts totaling nearly $900,000 from the residents of Grovetown were knowing and purposeful, and not “inadvertent” as she had the chutzpah to maintain even at her plea hearing.
Even in local government, of course, $900,000 is a few rounding errors from a million.
What on God’s green Earth could she have been thinking? That she was somehow entitled to the people’s money because she’d been entrusted with it? It’s repugnant to steal from any employer – but when the employer is a tax roll of your supposed friends and neighbors, it’s staggering in its offensiveness.
The bulk of her thefts came from accounts in which residents had paid cash for city services. She even stole funds the Federal Emergency Management Agency had used to help Grovetown after an ice storm in 2014.
Capetillo’s schemes also caused the city to have to settle two lawsuits: one for $750,000 to compensate residents for utility rates they said were inflated to cover Capetillo’s hidden heists – and the other for $150,000 to justly compensate a wronged whistleblower.
Kudos to the whistleblower and everyone else who spoke up. It’s not easy to even recognize corruption sometimes when it’s right in front of you. You just don’t expect it from the people you see at the grocery store.
Or in your civics club: Capetillo is also facing charges in state Superior Court for allegedly pilfering $20,000 from the Grovetown Lions Club while treasurer.
As difficult as it sometimes is to recognize corruption, it’s even harder to confront corruption, especially hometown corruption – and especially when the suspect comes, as does Capetillo, from a powerful and beloved political family that includes a former mayor/current councilman and a former councilwoman and mayor.
On the federal charges, especially, she’ll get better than she gave: While maximum sentences for theft and money laundering run 10 and 20 years respectively, she’ll likely receive nothing close to that, thanks to her plea.
She may pay the money back. She may pay a price in prison. But she can never give the residents back their misplaced trust.