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Former literacy director pleads guilty to 10 counts

Sun Advocate reporter

On Dec. 10, Paula White Lewis, former literacy director at Price City Library, pled guilty to the first 10 counts of theft and forgery against her from Price City.

Originally, Ms. Lewis was accused of over 30 charges involving $50,900 taken from the City Library over nearly nine years. However, with her guilty plea, the majority of these charges will be dropped as the district determines her punishment.

"Now, what will happen is we will ask for a presentence report that outlines recommendations for punishment and restitution," said Gene Strate, district prosecuting attorney. "The court likes to have (the report) and, with a case like this, the details can be complicated; there's a lot of accounting involved."

Sentencing will not take place until Feb. 16, 2010. Although counts 11 through 30 were dropped, Ms. Lewis is still being charged with second and third degree felonies. She must also be in contact with Utah State Department of Corrections within 48 hours of her court appearance.

During the Seventh District Court of Utah proceedings, Judge George M. Harmond heard the plea and informed Ms. Lewis that, by admitting guilt, she would be waiving many of her rights. She acknowledged her understanding of this waiver in her statement to the court.

Ms. Lewis faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for each charge. However, with a guilty plea, this maximum is unlikely. Aside from jail time, restitutions to the city are on the table. Sentencing will be decided by the court over the coming weeks as information is reviewed.

"It's hard to say (what type of sentence will result). The minimum charges are very serious, but, in most cases, there's probation and possible prison time," said Strate. "There will be a restitution order. Sometimes a judge will order that they (restitutions) be paid, but with certain conditions (such as the defendant's ability to pay). (Additional) big orders like this can also go through civil proceedings."

Most of the incidents reportedly happened between July 2001 and Feb. 2009. Although most of the 30 charges were described as involving forged payments and unauthorized control of Price City money, the state no longer needs to prove them.

Ms. Lewis started her career as adult literacy director at the Price City Library in August, 1989. By 2009, she was earning around $31,882 per year, according to Price City records.

The incidents took place over several years, and the Price Police Department was first made aware of the forgeries by city employees. Investigation of the situation and allegations then followed.

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