WARREN — The female defendant standing before Warren’s 37th District Court Judge Matthew Sabaugh had a message for the Lincoln Middle School students who gathered in the Lincoln High School auditorium the morning of April 23.
“Please, you guys, get an education,” said the 29-year-old, in court on a retail fraud charge. “You have to have an education to have money to have the things you want.”
The young woman, whose 3-year-old daughter attended court with her, stole some merchandise from a local retail store, was caught and was charged.
The case was one of three that day that Sabaugh presided over inside the Lincoln High School auditorium in front of students as part of his Court in School program. The program began in 2008 and allows students to see first-hand the consequences people face when they break the law.
The young woman couldn’t afford the items for her daughter on her minimum-wage salary, so she shoplifted them.
“I believed, because things was hard for me, it was OK to (take) from other people,” said the accused, her voice emotional. “To pick up something that did not belong to me, I take full responsibility for what I’ve done.”
She said the crime left her traumatized and also hurt her family, disrespected the store employees, and took up the time of the police officers who responded to the theft. It was also revealed the woman in Sabaugh’s presence didn’t have a high school diploma. She reportedly returned the stolen merchandise.
Also in court last week were a court reporter, Sabaugh’s secretary Sandy Sirovey and court officer Mark Christian. Scott Weinberg and Justin Pollard were the attorneys who spoke on behalf of the defendants.
Sabaugh, a graduate of Warren Woods Tower High School, felt the defendant before him was sincere in her words.
“You got to hear a real-life story here,” he told the students. “You shared a lot. It’s not too late for you.”
Her sentencing: 11 months of reporting probation, enrollment in the one-day theft offenders class, court fees, and the requirement to continue working at her new job, which comes with a higher salary. The defendant is forbidden to “enter the store where it happened,” and she must get her high school diploma or her GED.
In another case, the defendant was sentenced to six months probation, had to refrain from drugs and alcohol, would undergo random drug screenings twice a month, and must attend a marijuana awareness program and a traffic safety program. He also has to pay $750 in court and attorney fees.
The accused went before the judge on charges of driving on a suspended license and possession of marijuana. He told Judge Sabaugh he “made a very bad decision.”
“It really hurts me a lot,” he said.
The defendant had never been in trouble with the law before, and Sabaugh decided to give him a second chance.
“I wish you well,” Sabaugh said. “I’m confident you’re going to do well.”
Eighth-grader Shelby Blount thought the Court in School program was a “really good experience.”
“We got to learn what it is like when you do go down that path,” she said.
“(Adults) want us not to grow up and do drugs and get into trouble,” seventh-grade student Melina Deda said.
“I liked it because all the people that were up there, they knew they did wrong. They want to change,” seventh-grader Brody Sayed said.
Eighth-grader Fariha Choudhury thought the defendants were sorry for their actions.
“I think they were good (people,)” she said. “They learned from their mistakes”
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