Justice, formerly Karla Jessee, is currently nine months into a 30-month sentence, claimed her lawyer, Elizabeth Turner, was ineffective in not getting her sentence further reduced. Harwell disagreed.
Turner had, in fact, successfully argued to prevent Justice from receiving a longer sentenced, since Justice's crime had a maximum sentence of 35 years.
In her sentencing memorandum, Turner noted that the methods used by Justice to steal the money should earn her a lighter sentence since sentencing guidelines call for more time for a "sophisticated" scheme.
"She wrote checks from the school accounts to family members, which would appear on bank statements and deposited checks and monthly on bank statements to the school district. If Ms. Justice was attempting to conduct a sophisticated scheme, it could be assumed she would have attempted to conceal her wrongdoing. This would also apply to the credit car transactions Ms. Justice was charging on behalf of the school district for her personal gain."
The fact that Justice's self dealings made her the highest paid employee in the district was also a dead giveaway, Turner noted.
The memorandum also included Justice's statement about how sorry she was for what she did to the school district.
Words cannot express the remorse I feel for the crimes I committed. At the time, I was in a very dark place and felt backed into a corner. I have struggled financially my entire life and being the oldest of 10 children has always made me feel as though it was my responsibility to help out each member of my family.Justice acknowledged she stole the money and described the thievery as "shameful."
In addition to Turner's legal arguments and Justice's statement, the memorandum featured letters from her former husband, members of her church, friends and a social worker asking for leniency.
During the sentencing hearing, impact statements were given by R-5 Superintendent/High School Principal Christina Hess, former Superintendent Kathy Fall, Elementary Principal David Davis and third grade teacher Tami Maneval, who detailed the impact Justice's thievery had on the district, forcing it to drop programs and drastically cut costs.