As her family wept in the courtroom, former Southold Justice Court clerk Christine Stulsky was sentenced after pleading guilty to stealing $231,000 in fines and bail money from the court.
Stulsky stood before State Supreme Court Justice John Collins and was sentenced to a six month jail term and five years’ probation with drug and psychiatric conditions.
According to Collins, Stulsky paid $50,000 back to Southold Town after she pleaded guilty, leaving the amount she must pay back at $181,791; another $50,000 is due in September and the rest will be paid back in monthly payments after she is released from the Suffolk County Correctional Facility sometime in July.
Wearing a skirt, flat shoes, and a jacket, Stulsky told Collins that she was a “nervous wreck.” He told her that there would be “no surprises” during her sentencing.
When asked if she had anything to say, Stulsky said, “I am extremely remorseful for my actions and to the people I hurt, including the court, the town board, the taxpayers and my friends. I intend to pay every penny back.”
Stulsky’s attorney, John Strode, said there were mitigating circumstances that had been taken into consideration, including health concerns. He would not elaborate further, but said, “It has been a nightmare” for Stulsky and her family.
The judge said he and the prosecution believed that Stulsky was truly remorseful. “I don’t know when it set in, but I do believe it’s genuine,” he said.
Strode said he worked on financing with Stulsky’s family so that she could “pay back every penny.” The $50,000 was used to begin paying back bail to some defendants who have been waiting for months for their money.
Stulsky’s thefts of court funds began in January of 2009, District Attorney Thomas Spota said.
Stulsky was responsible for the collection and deposit of fines and bail funds, and reconciling court bank accounts.
Two weeks ago, Stulsky attended a hearing in Southold to determine whether or not she will be able to receive continued medical coverage.
Stulsky, a former Southold Town court employee charged with stealing $230,000 in fines, bail money and other revenue from Southold Town court coffers pleaded guilty in January to grand larceny during a court conference in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead, according to District Attorney Thomas Spota.
Stulsky, 65, of New Suffolk, was sentenced by Collins, a new judge on the case.
“Christine is remorseful and accepts responsibility for her actions,” Stulsky’s former attorney Lane Bubka said, reading a written statement to SoutholdLOCAL prepared by his client. “She deeply regrets how this has affected the justices of the court, her co-workers, the town board, and all the residents of Southold Town. Christine is forever grateful for the help of her family and friends, who have supported her through this and made it possible for her to pay back every dollar taken.”
His client, Bubka said, has, in her life, “helped a tremendous amount of people. This is a case of circumstance that just got out of hand.”
Had she not taken the plea deal, Bubka said, and been indicted, Stulsky would have faced five to 15 years in prison. Instead, she will do four of the six months at a Suffolk County Correctional Facility. “That was part of the consideration, knowing she will be local and close to family,” he said.
Her family accompanied Stulksky to court.
“We are relieved that this issue has come to an end,” Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said last month. “We look forward to implementing new policies and procedures to ensure that acts like these don’t ever take place again.”
Stulsky, who’d worked for the town since 1980 resigned as a senior justice court clerk at the time of her arrest last March.
Last March, Stulsky surrendered and was arraigned at Suffolk County criminal court, initially pleading not guilty to felony charges after an assistant district attorney said she stole “in excess of” $50,000 in bail and other fees from Town Hall to buy groceries, pet food, and cigarettes.
According to Spota, Stulsky, who was employed with Southold Town for 34 years before the town board accepted her resignation, was “suspected of stealing bail and other monies she was entrusted with.”
Prosecutor Melisa Bliss said Stulsky, who appeared in court in March dressed in a black sweater and leggings, was charged with one count of grand larceny in the second degree, a felony, one count of defrauding the government, a felony and one count of official misconduct, a misdemeanor.
Judge James Hudson set bail at $5,000 cash and $10,000 bond; Stulsky had a bail bondman at the arraignment.
In October, months after Stulsky was arrested and charged with grand larceny after she allegedly stole bail money and other fees from Southold Town Hall, defendants were still waiting to get that bail money back.
Stulsky worked for Justice Rudy Bruer for many years before she surrendered.