Ex-city worker pleads guilty

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The former assistant coroner pleaded guilty Monday to stealing several gift cards at a New Year's Eve death scene.

Graham  Special
Special
Graham

Charlena Graham, 44, was sentenced to seven years' probation under the First Offender Act. Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet also ordered Ms. Graham to pay $325 in restitution and $5,000 in fines.

"I want to apologize to the LeBlanc family. I apologize for any additional grief I have caused you," Ms. Graham said in Richmond County Superior Court. She also apologized to her family and to the coroner's office for the embarrassment she caused them.

Ms. Graham was fired and arrested in January after the theft was discovered.

On Dec. 31, Ms. Graham was sent to an Augusta hotel where a 29-year-old woman had committed suicide. Gift cards from her family were in the room.

Stephanie LeBlanc's father expressed the family's appreciation for the swift action by law enforcement, but he said the family was dismayed that media coverage focused on Ms. Graham and her financial troubles.

Bruce LeBlanc said his daughter had hardships, too, but she was working and going to school for a teaching degree. She was on the dean's list at Augusta State University, he said.

Ms. Graham's possible punishment was enhanced because she committed the crime while on duty as a government employee. She could have been sentenced to as much as 15 years in prison.

Defense attorney Pete Theodocion highlighted Ms. Graham's years as a Richmond County sheriff's officer and detective before she joined the coroner's staff in 2004.

Ms. Graham understood that the $325 theft case was worse because of the disrespect to the victim and because she was on duty. But Mr. Theodocion asked Judge Overstreet to balance that against Ms. Graham's lack of prior offenses and her years as a public servant.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (50) Add comment
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formatrix
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formatrix 07/08/08 - 04:05 am
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She probably rationalized to

She probably rationalized to herself that the dead woman could not use the gift card. Still, very shaby, very shaby and unprofessional and a disrespect for the dead among us.

Reality
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Reality 07/08/08 - 04:37 am
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Get rid of the first

Get rid of the first offenders act and put her butt in jail, do you think this is an isolated incident?

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 07/08/08 - 06:07 am
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This is a pretty bad attitude

This is a pretty bad attitude for a 44 year old woman that has been with the Sheriff's department before the coroners office. I agree with Reality, this is not likely a first offense, just a first time caught. I hope she'll be blocked from government employment and not just reinstated.

DistantObserver
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DistantObserver 07/08/08 - 06:15 am
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Although Ms. Graham

Although Ms. Graham apologized "for any additional grief" her actions caused the family of the deceased young woman, I doubt she will ever fully comprehend how her despicable act compounded their grief. I would have hoped as part of her sentencing, the judge would have ordered she not be allowed to be employed in any position that would give her opportunity to again exploit people in vulnerable circumstances. Unfortunately the judge's sentence was limited by the First Offender Act guidelines. If Ms. Graham holds any professional licenses or certifications, I hope this incident is reported to those boards for further action.

PTHS2
0
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PTHS2 07/08/08 - 06:25 am
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Judge Overstreet strikes (or

Judge Overstreet strikes (or doesn't) again.

christian134
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christian134 07/08/08 - 06:51 am
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Have to agree that First

Have to agree that First Offenders Act does not apply in this woman's case...She should have been sentenced to time for the sheer act of disrespectful behavior..Judge Overstreet I would have to say to you "Sir if this had been your child or your loved one what kind of sentence would you have imposed?"

redapples
672
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redapples 07/08/08 - 06:55 am
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I lose a little more

I lose a little more confidence in the world when I read stories like this. You never know exactly who it is you can trust. Ms. Graham's acts are despicable!

justus4
107
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justus4 07/08/08 - 06:57 am
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Wow! This racist judical
Unpublished

Wow! This racist judical system has gotta be investigated for corruption. Seven yrs probation for under five hundred dollars? And don't talk this honorable, trustworthy, BS, because thats not the legal issue. Public opinion should not affect legal decisions without some kinda review. The punishment MUST fit the crime and in this case, as usual, another minority has been set up to fail.

redapples
672
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redapples 07/08/08 - 07:03 am
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I doubt the sentence has

I doubt the sentence has anything to do with a racist judicial system, but rather the fact that she held a position of public trust and violated that trust. Doing such acts is cause for punitive action.

Reality
3
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Reality 07/08/08 - 07:11 am
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justus4, I guess your right

justus4, I guess your right she was set up to fail. Apparently she was not trust worthy enough to be in that position to begin with...If you don't think stealing from the dead is an all time low you must be bent.

christian134
1
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christian134 07/08/08 - 07:21 am
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And they call me

And they call me racist....:-) She could have orange and purple stripes justus and I would still say she acted in a despicable manner plus criminal - now don't forget that one - probably more than once.

Georgiais1
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Georgiais1 07/08/08 - 07:39 am
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Right Justice...It all

Right Justice...It all happened because she was a minority. You need help. It is people like you that keep the dumbing down of Americans in effect. All you can look at is how much she stole. You can get 7 years in prison for stealing 20 dollars if you use a gun. Look at the circumstances before you embarrass yourself.

apoclypesnow
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apoclypesnow 07/08/08 - 07:42 am
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Justus spews his ignorance

Justus spews his ignorance again. Another negro americn let off easy because the system is scared jackson and sharpton will show. Her butt should be under the jail for the 7 years. I agree with the deceased's dad!

2tired2argueanymore
1
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2tired2argueanymore 07/08/08 - 07:43 am
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This woman got off way too

This woman got off way too easy. To be in the public trust and steal from a dead person is just un-believeable. What is probably more un-believeable is that justus4 thinks it is about race. I guess he can't see beyond the outer covering to see the reality.

ANGEL
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ANGEL 07/08/08 - 07:55 am
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I do not feel her punishment

I do not feel her punishment was right or strong enough. I feel she should have gotten MORE JAIL TIME. Stealing from a dead person is the worse. Since we ALL have money trouble anyway, I guess it it ok to steal and get off with just probation. WOW someone needs to CHANGE THE LAW and get rid of the FIRST OFFENDERS ACT!

apoclypesnow
0
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apoclypesnow 07/08/08 - 08:07 am
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The first offender act serves

The first offender act serves a purpose, unfortunately, it should not have in this case.

G MAC
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G MAC 07/08/08 - 08:49 am
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let's change the focus a

let's change the focus a minute. richmond county has one of the best coroners offices in the state. grover tuten and mark bowen did not deserve the black eye that they received from this incident. it is ashame that people can,t see the harm that they do to other people by their actions. there is no way to make restitution for that. once it is done, it's done.

bone
23
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bone 07/08/08 - 08:55 am
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i don't agree with justus,

i don't agree with justus, but i do pity the woman.

luckie
2
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luckie 07/08/08 - 09:01 am
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I have heard that on many

I have heard that on many occasions when police officers or swat teams do drug busts many times the officers do not make the bust for the true quantity but take the drugs and make money off of them themselves.. Unfortunately, there are a lot of crooked people out there in many departments stealing. The only thing I can say is be prepared when your time comes because it will. The old saying - stealer's never win. This young lady caused a huge embarrassment to her department and the city of Augusta. She should have to do some kind of community service. May God bless her family.

Edward1968
624
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Edward1968 07/08/08 - 09:02 am
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I don't agree wit the

I don't agree wit the sentence Judge Overstreet gave her. While it may be within the First Offender Act, I feel that since Graham was an employee of the Coroner's office and her background in law enforcement should preclude her from this and mandate her to serve time in prison.

Reality
3
Points
Reality 07/08/08 - 09:06 am
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I guess the first time you

I guess the first time you get caught stealing it is a freebie, so get something nice....

PLAYLIKETHUNDER4
0
Points
PLAYLIKETHUNDER4 07/08/08 - 09:12 am
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she fell on her own jusus, or

she fell on her own jusus, or actually stupid , and she's lucky the family doesn't deal with her sorry thieving behind. you are one sorry puke....

BarstoolDreamer
19
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BarstoolDreamer 07/08/08 - 09:12 am
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I love the way justus

I love the way justus stereotypes the justice system. Now if we could only find another stereotype that played out in this story.....

stillamazed
1488
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stillamazed 07/08/08 - 09:18 am
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That fine is a crock, that

That fine is a crock, that money will never be paid back, she should have had to serve some time for that. I'm sure like some others here that this was probably not the first time she had done something like this, it was just her first time getting caught.

DoubleD
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DoubleD 07/08/08 - 09:23 am
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See, to Justus 7 years of

See, to Justus 7 years of having to conduct yourself like a law abiding citizen does sound impossible. Umm, justus... why does someone have to force a person not to break the law for 7 yrs?

apoclypesnow
0
Points
apoclypesnow 07/08/08 - 09:24 am
0
0
So if I steal 2 million

So if I steal 2 million dollars from a bank but don't use a weapon, can I be sentenced under 1st offender and get probation and a 5k fine?

yeahright
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yeahright 07/08/08 - 09:54 am
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When my father's wife passed,

When my father's wife passed, Ms. Graham was the coroner that came to the house. My step-mother never took off her wedding rings, but according to the coroner's office, they were not on her when she got there. Reading this really makes me wonder now...

sueboo418
37
Points
sueboo418 07/08/08 - 09:59 am
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I agree Tech, there are allot

I agree Tech, there are allot of crooked people on law enforcement, etc. I know several people that have had DUI's (not proud of that) that seemed to have less money in their pocket when they are bonded out than when they went in. Hmmm wonder what happened to it????

js_ee
0
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js_ee 07/08/08 - 10:07 am
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I think her sentence fits the

I think her sentence fits the crime and had nothing to do with her race. What's so amazing is the number of people on here who are PERFECT and never did a thing wrong. I, for one, believe people make mistakes and some do learn from there mistakes. The First Offender Act was enacted to show faith in people and the opportunity to change. In this case justice was served and everyone got theirs...And for the record, she can't have too much experience in this if she gets caught steeling gift cards from a dead person. Most career criminals are just a bit better than that. Oh yeah...'Negro Americans"...are you serious(7:42)???

jaschild
5
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jaschild 07/08/08 - 10:34 am
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justus4, you mean ANOTHER

justus4, you mean ANOTHER MINORITY who set herself up for failure.

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