Saturday, January 19, 2002

Ex-sheriff sentenced to six years

Convicted of stealing funds for trips, meals

By Mark Williams
The Associated Press

        LANCASTER, Ohio — Former Sheriff Gary DeMastry was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for using $10,880 in taxpayer money to pay for trips, dining and entertainment, and then asking subordinates to cover his tracks.

        His wife, a former bookkeeper at the Fairfield County Sheriff's Department, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in the public corruption case.

        Both were led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. Penny DeMastry, who was sentenced before her husband, gave him a kiss before leaving the Fairfield County Common Pleas courtroom.

        Mr. DeMastry hugged and kissed other family members after his sentencing.

        A sheriff for two terms, he was accused of spending $340,000 in public money between 1994 and 1998. He was tried first on 50 of 343 counts filed against him.

        “This was deception upon deception,” visiting Judge Richard Markus said Friday.

        Prosecutors had asked for a 10-year sentence for Mr. DeMastry, 46.

        He was convicted Dec. 11 of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft in office, obstruction of justice and tampering with evidence.

        The jury acquitted him of one charge and could not reach a decision on 17 counts.

        Defense attorney Max Kravitz said the sentence was harsh. He had asked for probation.

        Judge Markus is expected to consider within a few weeks whether Mr. DeMastry should be kept out of prison while his case is appealed. Because he has put so many people in prison, Mr. DeMastry might be sent to a federal or out-of-state prison for his own security, Mr. Kravitz said.

        The case is not over. Judge Markus set a June 3 trial date for the 17 charges the jury couldn't decide on, plus 33 other charges to be selected by the prosecution on the remaining counts.

        But Prosecutor Bill Schenck questioned whether the trial will go forward.

        “This community has been beaten with this case for a long time,” he said.

        Before he was sentenced, Mr. DeMastry defended his two terms as sheriff.

        “These charges have forever tarnished my reputation in this community,” he said.

        Mr. DeMastry's father, Leo, and his daughter, Nicole, spoke before the sentencing.

        “Gary DeMastry is not a thief,” Leo DeMastry told Judge Markus. He said his son did many good things for the county and is not the crook he has been portrayed as being.

        Penny DeMastry, 44, pleaded guilty Dec. 3 to five felony counts: theft in office, complicity to theft in office, conspiracy to tampering with evidence, conspiracy to money laundering and conspiracy to obstruction of justice. Included were charges she tampered with financial records given to the state auditor.

        Gary DeMastry also was ordered to pay fines and costs of about $230,000. Mrs. DeMastry was ordered to pay $6,500 in restitution.


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