Piper Marie Leslie, who pleaded guilty June 21 to the theft of funds from the Ocean Shores Chamber of Commerce when she served as director in 2018 and 2019, began a 30-day stay in jail after her sentencing hearing on Monday morning.
Prosecutors and Leslie’s attorney had agreed to a plea arrangement last month after Leslie entered an Alford plea of guilty to theft charges, where she would be sentenced to 30 days home monitoring and 240 hours of community service.
Superior Court Judge David Edwards said Monday he did not feel that was sufficient punishment for her crime.
“I don’t believe this is a case where the defendant deserves to essentially leave the courtroom today with an order to pay restitution, and admonishment from me,” he said.
Edwards said when individuals are placed in a position of trust, particularly with a quasi-public, nonprofit entity built for the benefit of the community like the chamber, “a theft of money from such an organization by somebody in a position of trust is a serious crime.”
When Leslie entered her Alford plea of guilty — a plea that does not include an admission of guilt, but rather acknowledges that a jury would be likely to convict her — Edwards said he did not feel Leslie had taken appropriate responsibility for the offense.
“I certainly can see why some of the people familiar with this case may feel the defendant has not taken responsibility for her actions, and I agree,” said Edwards. “While she has pleaded guilty, she had stated in her written statement that she did nothing wrong.”
Edwards related the evidence in the case as he understood it: During 2018 and 2019, Leslie received five additional paychecks she had written to herself, on top of her usual twice-monthly checks.
Leslie read a statement to the court on Monday stating while she had written those checks to herself, she had done so while being “overwhelmed and overworked, and unqualified for the responsibility” of taking over the chamber in its current dismal financial state in January 2017.
“I’m deeply saddened that I failed an organization I put my heart and soul into,” she said. “Though I intentionally paid myself, it was never done with malicious or criminal intent.”
Edwards said, “I believe she knew exactly what she was doing and was stealing funds from the chamber.”
Leslie was remanded to the custody of the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office immediately after the hearing to begin serving her 30 days. Edwards did sentence her to 240 hours of community service to be completed at the rate of no less than 20 hours a month, “which gives her a year to complete.” If she does not complete the community service within a year, she will spend another 30 days in jail.
Edwards also took into consideration four victim impact statements in rendering his sentence. Leslie will also pay just under $7,400 in restitution.