ACNA priest Donald Armstrong was sentenced yesterday.
The Gazette in Colorado Springs reports:
A judge Friday sentenced the Rev. Donald Armstrong to four years probation for his no-contest plea to one count of misdemeanor theft of funds from the Colorado Springs church where he once served as rector.
Fourth Judicial District Judge Gregory R. Werner also ordered Armstrong to pay restitution in the amount of $99,247 that was diverted to pay for his son's and daughter’s college education. The money came from a trust fund originally set up to pay for the education of seminary students.
But Werner rejected a request by a special prosecutor to order Armstrong to repay Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church an additional $191,753 in church funds that also were spent on his children’s education.
Werner cited testimony by three former church officials who testified they knew of a deal where the church paid the tuition in lieu of giving Armstrong a raise for several years.
The judge also ordered Armstrong to perform 400 hours of community service not related to his current church and forbade him from managing the funds of any trust, business or legal entity.
Armstrong’s probation will run concurrent with a four-year deferred sentence he received in September when he also entered a no-contest plea to one count of felony theft. Unlike the misdemeanor, however, that will not become part of his permanent record if he does not break the law during that period.
The sentence was lighter than some expected
Prosecutors had asked the judge to consider jail time for Armstrong, without saying how much.
“I’m sure if church members had their way they would lock him up and send him to Elba,” said Pueblo County Deputy District Attorney Stephen Jones, alluding to the island near Italy where Napoleon was exiled.
Jones served as special prosecutor in the case because former El Paso County District Attorney John Newsome had been a member of the vestry, or governing body, at Grace Church.
Jones also asked the judge to order Armstrong to write a public apology to his former congregation, noting remarks Armstrong made after entering the no-contest plea in which he continued to maintain his innocence.
“It seems like there’s been no acceptance on the part of Mr. Armstrong to the reality of what he did,” Jones said.
The Colorado Springs Independent says:
"I do not believe jail time is appropriate," Werner said in his ruling from the bench. He cited "massive confusion" in Grace's record-keeping processes through the years, as well as the fact that lay leaders of the church co-signed checks for as much as $12,000 without questioning Armstrong. That amounted to implicit approval, in the judge's view, explaining why Armstrong faces no restitution for repaying hundreds of thousands in other allegedly misused funds that came from Grace and not the Bowton Trust.
Werner denied a request from the prosecution for Armstrong to write a letter of apology to Grace, saying such a letter would never satisfy everyone, "and I'm not going to go there."
Members of Grace and St. Stephen's expressed relief that this phase of their life is over.
"All of us feel this has been a painful episode in Grace's history, and we're ready now to move on," said Fr. Stephen Zimmerman, the Grace rector since November 2009. "I believe the judge felt constrained by limitations of the First Amendment."