The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

July 7, 2014

Judge rejects deferred judgment

CLINTON — A District Court judge denied a deferred judgment request from a Clinton woman who defrauded the Iowa Department of Human Services for thousands of dollars over a more than 15-month period.

Judge Mark Lawson told Aquila Harris, 33, 3026 N. Second St., on Thursday that he did not feel a deferred judgment was appropriate. Harris pleaded guilty to first-degree fraudulent practices, a class C felony, which can carry as much as 10 years in prison, on May 29. Assistant Clinton County Attorney Ross Barlow recommended a suspended prison sentence, as per the plea agreement, but resisted the defendant’s application for a deferred judgment.

According to court documents, Harriss fraudulently told the DHS that her four children lived with her between Jan. 1, 2012, and April 30, 2013, when they actually lived with their great-grandmother in Rockford, Illinois.

During this time period, she was issued $11,655 in assistant benefits for which she was not eligible, according to the affidavit.

Defense Attorney Barbara Manness asked Lawson to consider a deferred judgment, pointing out that her client has only one other serious charge in her criminal record — a charge of third-degree theft, for which she also received a deferred judgment. She added that Harris is “committed to making changes in her life,” including finding a job and receiving her high school equivalency.

“This was a time when she desperately needed money and she knows what she did was wrong,” Manness said.

Harris told the court that she realizes her actions were wrong and she would like a chance to prove she can be better. She added that her actions have ruined her life.

“I’ve learned trying to take the easy way out (is not good),” Harris said. “I stole money to get me somewhere and it got me nowhere.”

Lawson pointed out that the defendant did not defraud the DHS for a month or two to get on her feet, but instead continued this practice for almost 16 months.

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