Judge sends Darrin to jail

Ex-Dorsey's Search leader gets 18 months for embezzlement

`A sad day for Columbia'

Ex-official eligible for work-release, must repay $50,000

November 19, 1999|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

After hearing emotional appeals from a former Columbia village manager, her husband, her son, friends and former village board members, a Howard Circuit Court judge sentenced Anne S. Darrin to 18 months in jail yesterday for embezzling about $65,000 in village funds.

Darrin, 50, wept and her husband leapt from his seat and began pacing around the courtroom when Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. explained the reason for his sentence -- to deter others thinking about stealing money from their employers.

"Perhaps, someone in the future might say, `Someone with all this going for her went to jail,' " Kane said.

Kane sentenced her to five years in prison but suspended all but the 18-month term at the Howard County Detention Center. Darrin is eligible for work-release and must pay $50,000 to the insurance company that bailed out the Dorsey's Search Village Association.

In the wake of Darrin's theft, rifts developed between the Columbia Association and its 10 villages, which are governed by independent boards. Some association officials want more oversight of villages and their spending practices, a move that village leaders have successfully opposed.

The enormity of Darrin's crime was not lost on village managers. All 10 were there, officials said. They sat quietly throughout the three-hour hearing yesterday. They left moments after Darrin was led away in handcuffs.

"This is a sad day for Columbia, that's all I can say," said one manager who would not give her name.

Columbia Association spokeswoman Pam Mack said: "This has been a very difficult and sad time for all of us. Cases like this must be pursued and brought to justice. The court has spoken and we're glad it's over."

Darrin pleaded guilty in September to one count of theft in her embezzlement of about $65,000 from the village during a four-year period that ended just before her resignation in February 1998.

Darrin used village funds to finance her credit card payments and cell phone bills and to purchase aprons for her son's Baltimore restaurant, The Strand.

During a brief statement to Kane, Darrin cried and said: "I don't ask forgiveness from anyone in this courtroom. I don't deserve it right now."

Her son, Joshua Darrin, testified on her behalf. He said his mother would "rather commit suicide than go to jail."

As Darrin was led away in handcuffs, her husband, John, leaned against the courtroom railing. He tried to speak but only mumbled. Finally, he said: "They just killed her."

During his testimony, John Darrin seemed to implicate himself. "We all knew we did some stupid and illegal things," he testified yesterday.

Prosecutors refused to discuss whether the investigation is still going on.

Darrin's lawyer, Thurman Zollicoffer, declined to comment after the verdict. During the hearing, he pleaded with Kane to sentence Darrin to probation and not prison.

"Dorsey's Search will continue to thrive, provide all the wonderful things," Zollicoffer said. "Anne will never be the same."

Assistant State's Attorney Bernard L. Taylor said the verdict was just.

"Generally, people who steal by guile, white-collar thieves, probably have never been within 10 miles of a jail," Taylor said. "You take someone like that who had benefits of a good life and put them in jail, even for a short time, and that is probably very traumatic."

One thing was apparent during the sentencing hearing: Darrin had a spellbinding ability to impress her superiors and create a veneer of normality.

One former board member, Ria Malloy, testified that Darrin was a good manager, and the village board and the Columbia Association should have given her more training after she took the job in 1989.

Despite the theft and betrayal, Malloy is still impressed by Darrin's work ethic and leadership ability.

"She worked very hard to do the best job she could," Malloy testified. "She was very determined not to let us down. She wanted us to be proud of her. Any business would be honored to have Anne work for them."

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