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.”
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