CHEYENNE – A woman who was convicted of exploiting a vulnerable adult was told she needs to pay $1,000 per month in restitution, despite her claim that she can’t afford those payments.
Linda Freeman, 55, had her probation revoked and reinstated to 10 years by Laramie County District Judge Catherine Rogers on Thursday morning after an evidentiary hearing. Freeman was previously before Rogers when she was ordered to pay the original $1,000 monthly restitution.
According to court documents, Freeman had been taking money from the victim, who was suffering from poor health, including dementia, and other problems. The victim died Aug. 7, 2007.
While the victim was a resident at the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Freeman gained access to his bank accounts and transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars from his account into her own. Freeman was ordered by the Wyoming Supreme Court to pay the estate $532,890.90 in restitution.
Prosecutors filed a petition to revoke her probation because Freeman wasn’t making payments, or not the full $1,000 monthly payments. Prosecuting attorney Caitlin Harper argued for Freeman to serve a split sentence because of her lack of payments.
Harper said the day Rogers ordered Freeman to make the $1,000 payments, Freeman stepped outside the courtroom and told her probation officer she can’t make those payments. Freeman’s defense attorney, Joanne Zook, told Rogers that Freeman wasn’t refusing to make payments, but that she couldn’t afford them.
Zook told Rogers that Freeman was only making $1,200 a month as a hotel maid in Laramie. She also told Rogers that Freeman was actively seeking other employment and also got a job with the U.S. Census Bureau.
However, Harper said the state was arguing for a split sentence because Freeman was unwilling to improve her financial situation and made none of the original restitution payments herself.
Freeman had previously told the court she was separated from her husband, who was supporting her, and couldn’t afford the $1,000 monthly payments. Rogers told Freeman she was manufacturing that situation and didn’t believe that Freeman couldn’t make the payments.
Rogers told Freeman that since she believed her estranged husband was paying all of her other bills and expenses, plus she was getting financial help from her children, she could afford the $1,000 monthly payments on a minimum-wage job.
Harper also told Rogers that when Freeman’s probation officer told her she needed to improve her financial situation to make the monthly payments, Freeman told her, “I can’t make any promises.” Harper said Freeman’s attitude in the case has been blaming her situation on probation and parole, and the mentality that the justice system is setting her up for failure.
Freeman’s probation officer told the court that Freeman has been working full time while she was on probation, and has talked with her about securing additional employment.
Zook told the court it was Freeman’s husband who paid the January and February restitution payments, and the only reason the two are still married is so Freeman can have health insurance.
Zook said it’s difficult for Freeman to find more gainful employment because the only work experience she has was as a waitress, and for the majority of her life, she has been a stay-at-home mom. Zook told the court Freeman moved to Laramie for more affordable rent, and Freeman was told she can’t work in a job where she handles money.
Ultimately, Rogers said the court rejects the notion that Freeman’s failure to pay was not willful and kept the monthly payments at $1,000.