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Frisbie sentenced to two years, six months

Friday, November 14, 2008

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TERRE HAUTE -- Former Putnam County Sheriff Mark Frisbie will spend two months in prison for a felony charge of federal program theft.

Frisbie faced Judge Larry McKinney in U.S. District 7 Court, Terre Haute, Thursday. As Frisbie's friends and family members sobbed audibly, McKinney handed down a sentence of two months in prison, four months home detention with electronic monitoring and two years probation for Frisbie. McKinney recommended Frisbie serve the two-month prison sentence in Terre Haute's Federal Penitentiary.

Former Putnam County Sheriff Mark Frisbie, left, leaves the U.S. District 7 Court in Terre Haute Thursday after being sentenced for federal program theft.
McKinney noted that Frisbie enlisted in the U.S. National Guard on Aug. 7. He said that should the National Guard "still be interested," Frisbie's four months on home detetion would be waived.

"I want this sentence to promote respect for the law," McKinney said prior to letting Frisbie know his fate.

After hearing final arguments from Frisbie's attorney, Bob Hammerle, and United States Attorney Jim Warden, McKinney said he was concerned "over officials violating trust of the community."

"Obviously, this is devastating," Hammerle said. "To correctional people, this seems like a very light sentence. But then you see all these people who care for Mark crying and collapsing, and you realize how many people it affects."

Following sentencing, Frisbie was allowed to leave the court. Hammerle said it could take a few weeks for the former sheriff to find out when and where he would report to prison and that he would be notified via phone call.

"Essentially, he'll get a call, probably in three to six weeks, saying he has a week to 10 days to report and where he has to go."

Frisbie was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $11,608.11, which McKinney said was due "immediately."

McKinney assessed Frisbie no fines.

Frisbie was facing a potential 10-year sentence and a $250,000 fine.

He had been under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Indiana State Police for several months for allegedly stealing funds to provide training and accommodations for employees of his personal business, Frisbie Security Consulting LLC, in addition to pay for travel expenses for his stepdaughter and to pay himself back for expenses the Putnam County Sheriff's Department had already reimbursed him for.

According to investigation findings, the thefts took place between January 2006 and March 2008.

While handing down sentencing Thursday, McKinney said he found it "troublesome" that Frisbie had used department monies for the personal training.

In August, Frisbie entered a guilty plea to the felony charge.

"You recognized how serious this is, but you recognized it a little late," McKinney said.

He also said he wanted Frisbie's cause to be something of a cautionary tale.

"I am concerned about others who have been given public trust and their understanding of the seriousness of a charge like this," he said. "That's an important consideration in this case."

McKinney recognized Frisbie's time as sheriff before handing down sentencing.

"Your history is something of which you should be quite proud of," McKinney said, adding it was appropriate that Frisbie resigned from his post immediately.

"You have respected the system by stepping away from it and not thumbing your nose at it," he said.

In addition, McKinney said he took into account several letters that were written by family members regarding Frisbie.

"These letters show a real history of caring for your community," McKinney said. "It's a selfless history."

Still, McKinney said that history could not be weighed against the crime that was committed.

"You don't get to put all your good deeds on one side of the scale and all your bad deeds on the other," he said.

Prior to McKinney's decision, Hammerle and Warden were allowed to speak.

Hammerle said that Frisbie took "great pride" in being sheriff.

"He did a lot of good things for that county," Hammerle said. "All of these things speak enormous volumes to his character."

Hammerle asked the court for leniency, especially since Frisbie had resigned immediately.

"In his case, he had to face a community that was stunned," Hammerle said. "That means something."

However, Warden argued facing the situation head-on did not allow Frisbie to use department monies as his own "piggy bank."

"This is theft from the people," Warden said. "This is taxpayer money. He was elected by these people. He wore the badge of this office, but he dishonored it."

Warden argued that six separate acts of embezzlement were not an indicator of a "momentary lapse of weakness."

"The defendant had been trusted with the funds," Warden said. "He took them fraudulently. He decided he could raid the piggy bank."

Ultimately, Warden said the question of why the money was taken had never been answered.

"There is no good reason," Warden said. "(Frisbie) did not need this money."

Frisbie also had an opportunity to address the court.

"I want to apologize to the people of Putnam County, my department, my family and friends," Frisbie said. "I took great pride in being sheriff. I made some mistakes and I got sloppy."

Hammerle is confident the National Guard will accept Frisbie, and that being in the military will allow Frisbie to start rebuilding his life.

"They have allowed people convicted of felonies to join in the past," he said. "I hope they will make an exception for Mark. I can't think of a better man they could do it for."