Man gets probation in church theft case

| October 20, 2009

Edward Fisher still mows the lawn of the Rantoul Presbyterian Church for free, his attorney says.

Even though Fisher, 58, Rantoul, was convicted of stealing nearly $30,000 from the church while he was serving as treasurer, that doesn’t make him a bad person, Brian Williams, his attorney, said during Fisher’s sentencing Monday at Franklin County District Court.

“He’s not a bad person,” Williams told Judge Thomas Sachse. “He made a bad decision, but he’s not a bad person.”

Fisher, who prior to this case had no criminal history, was sentenced to 24 months of probation and was ordered to pay $29,937.63 in restitution.

Williams said during the time in which the crime was committed — Jan. 1, 1997, to Oct. 5, 2008 — Fisher suffered from a heart attack and experienced other health problems. Those conditions have Fisher on nine types of medication and have left him unable to work, Williams said.

But Sachse said Fisher’s conditions weren’t excuses for his behavior.

“A lot of people have heart attacks, and a lot of people have health problems,” he said. “That’s not an excuse to steal money.”

Fisher was arrested in April and charged with felony theft. He posted a $5,000 bond two days after his arrest.

He changed his plea in September from not guilty to no contest. A plea of no contest means Fisher does not refute the charges against him but also does not claim guilt for them.

Williams said Fisher felt “very ashamed and very remorseful” for his actions. He said that during the time Fisher was treasurer, he had put some money back into the church’s account.

“The church did not go without,” Williams said, adding that members were able to come up with money for needed items for the church, 219 S. Cedar St.

But Will Hurst, who represented the state in the case, said that didn’t matter.

“The fact that somehow church members made do doesn’t change anything,” he said. “He took money that wasn’t his. Money that was given by individuals as part of their religion.”

In statements written to the court from church members, some expressed concerns that the restitution Fisher was ordered to pay is only about half of the amount they think he stole.

And that could be true, Hurst said. The restitution amount is only the amount that the state could prove at this point in the case, he said.

“It’s not to say that he didn’t take any more,” Hurst said.

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Category: Church Security

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