Friday, September 24, 1999

Former Butler Co. magistrate back behind bars

Freedom too early on theft convictions

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Freedom was short-lived for a former Butler County magistrate convicted of stealing $423,000 from an elderly client.

        A judge Thursday ordered David Garretson back to prison for another eight months after authorities realized he had been released too early.

        Following a hearing in Warren County Common Pleas Court, Mr. Garretson, 48, solemnly removed his tie and belt, handed his wallet to his crying wife, then kissed her.

        Then, a deputy handcuffed him and led him off to the county jail.

        He has until Monday to file an appeal and be freed on bond. Otherwise, he will be sent to the state penitentiary next week. Mr. Garretson's lawyer said he will appeal the ruling.

        “Obviously it was a mistake on somebody's part,” Judge P. Daniel Fedders said of the early release. “The fact remains for whatever reason, the defendant should not have been released.”

        Judge Fedders had sentenced Mr. Garretson to a two- year term in prison in March 1998 and ordered to pay back $363,429 after Mr. Garretson pleaded no-contest to two counts of aggravated theft for stealing from Carrie Musgrove's estate from July 1993 through June 1996.

        Police said Mr. Garretson, who had power of attorney for Mrs. Musgrove since 1992, wrote checks to himself and used automated teller machines to withdraw money from her checking account. Mrs. Musgrove died in 1997 at age 92.

        Mr. Garretson was sentenced under Senate Bill 2, which took effect July 1, 1996, and required him to serve the full sentence. However, corrections officials reduced the prison term by crediting Mr. Garretson with days off for good behavior.

        He was freed July 9 from Pickaway Correctional Institution.

        Warren County authorities found out about the release when Judge Fedders logged onto the state corrections Web site on the Internet. The Web site allows users to search for an inmate's prison status.

        State corrections officials said Thursday that the sentenc ing order from the court was not clear. Prosecutors say it was.

        Defense lawyer James Perry argued that Judge Fedders did not have the legal authority to send Mr. Garretson back to prison.

        Besides, Mr. Garretson had been through enough, he said.

        “Mr. Garretson did nothing to bring this situation about. Now you want to jerk him back. It's unheard of. It's cruel and unusual punishment to make someone serve their sentence by installments,” Mr. Perry said.

        Mr. Garretson, who surrendered his license to practice law after ethics complaints were filed against him, said he was just getting his life back on track after being hired at an outdoor advertising firm.

        The prospect of losing their husband and father for another eight months has caused emotional turmoil for his wife and their four sons, Mr. Garretson said.

        “More than I can possibly express. The anxiety has caused tremendous emotional problems for each of my boys,” he said.

        Mrs. Musgrove's relatives weren't sympathetic. They said they haven't received any reimbursement from Mr. Garretson.

        “He should never have stolen the money in the first place. He has to pay his sentence,” said Mrs. Musgrove's daughter-in-law, Margaret Musgrove.

        “He is the one that brought this on his family and his children. We didn't ask him to bring it upon us. He entered my family's life in 1991, and it has been hell ever since.”


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