A former victim/witness coordinator was sentenced to a year in federal prison on Friday afternoon despite a tearful plea to remain in home custody.
Mitzi Clark Fulton Johnston asked Judge Curtis Collier to allow her to stay home to care for her special-needs, 17-year-old daughter and her 87-year-old mother, who has Alzheimer's.
But Judge Collier said many defendants have relatives who depend on them, and he said the sentence would be a deterrent. He said, "There are hundreds of Mitzi Johnstons standing behind you watching you and watching me."
He also directed that she repay SunTrust Bank $91,928.94 that she fraudulently obtained from the bank while working at the Krystal Company.
She must pay a minimum of 10 percent of her income after she is released from prison.
Ms. Johnston was also directed to serve 500 hours of community service after she is released.
She was given until July 17 to report to federal prison.
Judge Collier said he had received many letters in her behalf, including some from "leading figures in the community."
Her attorney, Anthony Martinez, noted that she graduated from UTC in 1980 as a criminal justice major and got her law degree from the Nashville School of Law two years later. She worked for the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office from 1987 to 1997.
He said she is "extremely remorseful" about the taking of the money.
Ms. Johnston said, "I had a wonderful job and a good salary, and I just blew it."
She said she accepts full responsibility, but "I still don't have a clear answer of why."
She said she has had "very serious issues in my life, during my childhood and in a former marriage." She said she has undergone "13 years of harrassment from my former husband and his present wife."
She said through meeting with a counselor, "I learned that my life was a timebomb waiting to explode."
Ms. Johnston said she has become involved with Chattanooga Endeavors and been invited to serve with the group in helping other offenders.
Prosecutor Steve Neff said when Ms. Johnston took the money "she was not thinking about her mother or her daughter. She was thinking about herself."
He said it was not a one-time mistake, saying, "There were at least 63 checks diverted to it - at least 63 separate criminal acts."
He said he believes she was easily able to divert the checks "because people trusted her."
He said with her prior courts job "she should have known better."