Crappell’s probation ends, record cleared

Penny Crappell

By PRESTON GILL Pgill@daily-review.com

Penny Crappell, who admitted to stealing about $60,000 from the Berwick Elementary School activity fund, will end her five-year probation sentence after serving 13 months, an order signed last week by 16th Judicial District Judge Gerard B. Wattigny stated.
Crappell pleaded no contest to theft over $1,500 on Nov. 5, 2012, and was sentenced to five years’ probation.
Crappell was ordered to pay $77,347.54 in restitution to the school system when she pleaded no contest. That included $58,647.54 fraudulently taken from the school and an additional $18,700 the school system incurred in audit fees.
Other conditions of her probation included that she give up her Berwick council seat, according to a transcript of the proceedings. Besides staying drug and alcohol free, Crappell was to stay out of bars and casinos during her probation.
The Department of Corrections submitted a request that Crappell’s probation be terminated on Dec. 13, 2013.
The petition for early probation termination was signed by Probation and Parole officer Joshua Patin, who could not be reached for comment.
Crappell subsequently received the customary first-time offender’s pardon the state constitution allows for most non-violent felonies.
The transcript of Crappell’s plea states that it was indicated to the court she had a gambling addiction, which caused her to steal. Because of that addiction the court determined that “treatment is a better remedy than incarceration … and we believe in the counseling for gambling addictions and the good results that come from that,” the transcript said.
St. Mary Parish Schools Superintendent Donald Aguillard had no comment on Crappell having nearly four years of her probations shaved off her sentence.
“We have no comment given that Mrs. Crappell is no longer a school board employee,” Aguillard said in an email response for comment.
Anthony Saleme, assistant district attorney, said the petition originated with the Department of Corrections and not the district attorney’s office. He said the district attorney's office did not weigh in on the petition to reduce the length of probation.
It is not unusual to see requests for probation get changed from supervised to unsupervised, he said. Saleme also said sometimes a petition will “shoot for the moon” and request the probation get completely terminated.
Saleme said the first-time offender’s pardon restores the rights of a citizen, but it did not carry the same weight as a governor’s pardon. Due to court proceedings today, he did not have time to research and provide a definitive difference in what effect that will have on Crappell’s ability to hold public office at the state and local level.
Crappell’s arrest records and fingerprinting associated with the crime will be ordered destroyed. The clerk of court will have to remove the record of all the proceedings from public view and have them sealed. They will no longer be public records. There will be no notations which might lead to the inference that the case ever existed.
“I did not consent to it, but I could not oppose it,” Saleme said of Crappell's request for the expungment of records.
Saleme said there remain a few isolated instances where the records are available in a non-public setting including background checks for health care providers.
Crappell turned herself in to the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Department on Aug. 23, 2012, after a month-long investigation by Louisiana State Police.

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