published Saturday, September 21st, 2013

Ex-finance director Mary Faye Morrow of Winchester in prison

A former Winchester, Tenn., finance director was handcuffed and hauled off to prison this week after her appeal to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals was denied, court documents show.

Mary Faye Morrow, 63 when she was charged in 2011, entered a guilty plea to charges of theft over $60,000 but balked at agreeing to an eight-year sentence behind bars, records show.

Morrow wanted "alternative sentencing" to avoid a prison cell, but the district court denied her request and she kicked that opinion to up the state Supreme Court of Criminal Appeals with an appeal filed March 20, records show.

Morrow remained free during the appeal process.

Her attorney in the appeal, Robert Peters, could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Mike Taylor, 12th Judicial District attorney general, said an order was issued to take Morrow into custody on Tuesday to hear the decision on her appeal.

"She was appealing the manner of service of the sentence, not the conviction," Taylor said.

Circuit Court Judge Thomas Graham commented on his denial of alternative sentencing, according to an appellate court document.

"[T]he worst thing about these kind of cases is the amount that is taken far dwarfs most all other thefts and things that we see, and we sent people to the penitentiary for years all the time for ... stealing a car or something like that," Graham states in the document.

Graham states that the sentence should be served in prison or it "would not express the seriousness of the offense."

Other terms in Morrow's guilty plea still stand, including an agreement reached on restitution set at $226,956.31, records show.

Taylor said that Morrow's sentencing as a range 1 offender means she will be eligible for parole after she serves 30 percent, or about 28 months, of her eight-year sentence.

In November 2011, Morrow was arrested by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation on grand jury indictments originally charging her with theft over $60,000, two counts of official misconduct, forgery and tampering with government records, newspaper archives show.

Investigators and state auditors in 2011 said Morrow "took many checks written to the city from the county court clerk for General Sessions and Circuit Court fines and fees to a nearby bank and converted them into cashier's checks and cash."

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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