Bad Habit: Nebraska Nun Sentenced for Embezzlement; Seeks to Withdraw Plea

There is the Flying Nun and now there is the Embezzling Nun. Sister Barbara Markey, 73, apparently was never quite comfortable with her vow of poverty. She pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $250,000 from the Omaha archdiocese. After she was sentenced to three to five years in prison by an irate Nebraska judge, she asked Judge Thomas Otepka let out of the plea and go to trial.

Markey’s attorney says that the nun had a deal with the prosecutors and the church to support probation and oppose jail time. However, a priest spontaneously wrote to the judge calling for Markey to render unto to Caesar what is Caesar’s – including some time in stir.

Markey says that the letter — relied on the Court — broke the deal and wants out. It does raise an interesting question of respondeat superior, but it is likely to fail.

The problem with judges doing this type of thing is that it discourages plea agreements, which greatly reduce the backlog of courts. If defense counsel cannot rely on these detailed negotiations, they are less likely to waive a trial. This was a huge departure from the agreement. Even if Otepka wanted jail time, the imposition of as much as five years is a quantum leap — particularly for a 73-year-old person.

Judge Thomas Otepka had warned her that he was not bound by the recommendations and she agreed to proceed. She is probably stuck with the deal, though she may have problem with calling it a plea “bargain.”

For the full story, click here.

5 thoughts on “Bad Habit: Nebraska Nun Sentenced for Embezzlement; Seeks to Withdraw Plea”

  1. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.


  2. Just so you have the facts straight, Sr. Barbara Markey did not plead guilty to “embezzling more than $250,000 from the Omaha archdiocese.” According to court papers, she plead guilty to, and was convicted of, “theft by the unauthorized use of funds (in excess of $1,500) owned by the Catholic Archbishop of Omaha, Inc., and FOCCUS, Inc. In fact, the police only investigated an unaccounted amount of $6,000. Sr. Barbara could have accounted also for this amount but since it involved the well-being of someone else she chose not to do so. When newspapers reported that she “stole” large sums of money, the IRS initiated an audit of Sr. Barbara. The IRS thoroughly examined every facet of Sr. Barbara’s finances and in late July concluded that she had no unreported income. Her tax returns were accurate and complete and did not reflect any unlawful taking of any funds owned by the Archdiocese.

  3. What’s up with that priest? Is this an affair gone wrong?

    Call me cynical but that’s suspicious.

  4. I have to admit that there were times in my days in Catholic schools that I prayed that a one of my nuns would be sent to prison. Of course, my prayers were not answered. For good reason I guess. Are plea bargains beginning to be a tool used by the prosecutors to get easy information, maybe knowing that the judge will not go along with the sentencing recommendations? When you have suspect prosecutors and political judges, the deck is stacked. Good luck to Sister Barbara. At age 73 and heading to prison, she will need it.

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