Tonya Harris reported for jail Monday evening to begin serving a 90-day sentence for her role in the theft of thousands of dollars in the Crab Orchard Utility District scandal.

Harris, 37, agreed to the plea bargain that calls for her to serve a split sentence. After serving 90 days in the county jail, she will be released into the virtual house arrest of community corrections for an unspecified amount of time, probably one year. The remainder of her eight year sentence will be served under supervised probation.

She was charged in November 2004 with theft of more than $60,000, forgery more than $60,000 and money laundering. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft more than $60,000, facilitation to commit theft more than $60,000, facilitation to commit forgery and facilitation of money laundering.

She received four four-year sentences with three to be served concurrently and one consecutive to those three sentences, for a total of eight years.

After serving 90 days, the remainder of her eight-year sentence will be served on probation if she successfully meets all the requirements of community corrections, which includes passing drug tests.

On Nov. 4, 2005, Harris submitted to a drug screen as part of the presentencing report and tested positive for the use of Benzodiazepam, methamphetamine, THC, opiates, cocaine and PCP. Sadler told the court she has a prescription for Benzodiazepam.

"I am concerned about the prospects of you making probation," Judge Leon Burns said last week, upon being informed of the failed drug test. Burns then asked Harris why she should be given a split sentence and released on probation.

"I won't test positive again, sir," Harris responded.

After further discussions between State Attorney William Bright, defense attorney Edwin Sadler and Burns, it was decided that Harris would be released under the house arrest of community corrections instead of supervised probation.

She can apply to have the house arrest restriction lifted at some point if she is successful in that program.

It will be difficult," Burns told her, to successfully serve eight years on probation. "It is not supposed to be easy." She is to also perform 100 hours of community service.

Harris through Sadler told the court she was waiving a sentencing hearing in favor of serving the 90 days and "getting this behind her."

A court-ordered $75,000 in restitution has already been paid because of a federal lawsuit filed against several persons to recover lost funds of COUD. The district has recovered nearly all the funds that state investigators said had been misspent.

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