Brigid Irish plea agreement presented to District Court
A plea agreement was presented in District Court Wednesday afternoon in the Brigid Irish Grand County Building Department case.
The agreement was presented to Judge Mary Hoak by the district attorney’s office and by Irish’s defense counsel. She did not accept the agreement Wednesday afternoon, pending further review and comment from all parties.
Judge Hoak openly expressed her doubts about the agreement as it was presented.
“I’m not going to accept this today and I may not accept it at all,” she said. “I am having a hard time with probation and the restitution figure.”
While many aspects of the proposed agreement were covered in court Wednesday, the full details were not disclosed publicly. The agreement itself is not open to the public for review unless or until it is accepted.
Judge Hoak is under no obligation to accept the agreement. If Judge Hoak chooses not to accept the plea agreement as presented, the case will continue moving through the legal system toward trial. If this plea agreement is rejected the DA’s office, Irish’s legal counsel can attempt to develop a different plea agreement more amenable to the court to be presented at a later date.
The details provided in court Wednesday highlighted a proposal wherein Irish would plead guilty to three of the felony charges and one misdemeanor charge against her, resulting in the dismissal of 928 other charges. The proposal calls for Irish to pay a restitution amount of $431,000 and spend 32 years on supervised probation and also requires 400 service hours.
Under the proposed agreement Irish would serve no prison time unless she violates the terms of her probation. The agreement makes Irish subject to 12 years in prison for violating the terms of her probation.
Irish’s defense counsel, Public Defender Chris Hamsher, informed Judge Hoak that the 45 year-old Irish has no previous criminal history, save for a speeding ticket she received during her teenage years. She stands accused of misappropriating more than $600,000 in Grand County Building Department funds during her tenure as an administrative assistant in that office. The funds Irish is accused of misappropriating were largely checks for building permits. She first began working for the building department in 2001.
According to the charges against her Irish is alleged to have taken some of the funds from the department personally, while destroying other checks outright, allegedly neither cashing nor depositing them. When Hamsher, presented those facts as part of the reasoning for the proposed plea agreement ,Judge Hoak responded, explaining she did not consider that factor particularly important.
“By discarding them (the checks) she denied the county the benefit of those funds for services they were providing,” said Judge Hoak.
While the restitution figure presented Wednesday was $431,000 the total Irish is accused of misappropriating is $649,106.90. Since the funds were first discovered missing Grand County government has requested people whose checks were destroyed or never deposited to reissue the checks to the county. The difference between the restitution figure for Irish, $431,000, and the total amount of missing funds, $649,106.90, represents the amount of money recovered by the county since discovering the missing funds, though the figure continues to change as more checks are received. The final restitution figure has not been settled as the DA’s office works with the county to verify exactly how much of the missing funds have already been re-received by the department.
The county filed an insurance claim earlier this year that resulted in a $316,000 payment to the county, according to county officials.
Judge Hoak asked Ashley Shelton, the prosecutor present for the DA’s office, if the victim in the case, Grand County, had been informed of the details of the agreement. Shelton informed Judge Hoak the county had been apprised of the details of the plea but she did not know their official position regarding the agreement.
“What is the county’s position on this?” Judge Hoak asked Shelton. “They are the victim. I want to know what they want. If they don’t want to be heard or appear, that is fine, but I would like to know that.”
Judge Hoak described how she was hesitant to grant probation in the case but realized it would be difficult for Irish to pay restitution to the county if she is serving time behind bars. Judge Hoak explained she wanted to know what was more important to the county, restitution or incarceration.
“It is unlikely that I will take this deal, but I will consider it,” Judge Hoak said. “If I had to choose at this moment I would say no. Let’s keep talking.”
Judge Hoak set Irish’s next appearance in court for July 29 at 1 p.m. and said she would make her decision on the plea agreement before Aug. 3.
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