By joe gorman
Some may call it the spirit of Christmas, but Judge R. Scott Krichbaum called it the spirit of “lawyering” after an attorney Thursday offered to pay half the restitution his client owes in a theft case if the man can not come up with the money in 30 days.
James Lottier, 73, of St. Louis Avenue, was to be sentenced in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for a felony charge of theft for taking more than $13,000 from American Legion Post 504, but Judge Krichbaum granted a request by Lottier’s lawyer James Dunn to postpone the sentencing to give Lottier time to come up with at least half of the money he took from the post.
Dunn said if Lottier does not have the money when the case resumes, he will pay the money out of his own pocket.
“I’m willing to do that,” Dunn said. “I’m willing to step up to the plate for him.”
Judge Krichbaum said Dunn is a credit to the profession.
“That’s a prime example of why I’m proud to be a lawyer,” Judge Krichbaum said.
Lottier is accused of taking the money for a period of almost a year before he was caught earlier this year.
Eric Alli, a member of the post who spoke, said Lottier’s actions did more than just cause bills to pile up. Alli said Lottier’s actions caused shame and embarrassment to the post, and members had to cut back or stop community-outreach programs altogether and use the money on hand to pay off creditors.
At his plea Sept. 25, Lottier promised to give some money back to the post, but he showed up in court Thursday with no money. Dunn told the judge Lottier’s son earlier had promised to help Lottier with the money. The son, however, changed his mind.
Lottier said he took the money to help his son with some financial matters. He did not bring any funds to court because he had to pay off some loans for his son first. Those loans are now paid off, and he offered to pay $500 a month from income he gets from Social Security and his pension from AT&T, where he worked for 26 years.
Dunn told Judge Krichbaum he asked AT&T if Lottier could take a lump-sum payment to make restitution, but under the rules of his pension, Lottier is only to make a lump-sum withdrawal for an emergency. Dunn said an AT&T representative told him Lottier’s circumstances do not constitute an emergency, even if he could be jailed for not making a payment.
Dunn asked for the delay to also study the pension and see if he could get Lottier a lump sum. He said a copy was supposed to be faxed to him before the hearing but it never came through.
Judge Krichbaum told Alli that in cases such as Lottier’s, he often struggles with giving prison time because if someone is in jail, they can’t pay back the restitution, and if they are jailed, they can’t be threatened with more jail time if they do not live up to the payment arrangements.
Dunn said his client served in the Air Force as a second lieutenant and also had attended Youngstown State University.