By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – A Winlock woman who helped herself to thousands of dollars worth of lottery tickets while she worked at the Flying K store and gas station in Toledo partially won her appeal, that the judge imposed a clearly excessive exceptional sentence.
Katrina M. Bowen was sent to prison for four years, twice the amount of time prosecutors recommended.
Bowen was fired in September 2013 after the owners analyzed their books and confronted her. She was charged in early 2014 with first-degree theft, and pleaded guilty soon afterward, not in connection with any plea deal.
Bowen, then 37, stole nearly $140,000 over a period of time, saying she had a gambling problem. She also won $40,000, but the state lottery reimbursed the business owners for that portion, according to court documents.
Lewis County prosecutors included an aggravating factor that it was a major economic offense, meaning a judge would be free to hand down an exceptional sentence..
Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg recommended to Lewis County Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey in March of last year that Bowen get two years. She asked for leniency based on her acceptance of responsibility for the crime. Her attorney asked that she get 90 days, the top of the standard sentencing range for a person with no criminal history.
In its opinion issued last week, the Washington State Court of Appeals acknowledged the judge was not bound by the prosecutor’s recommendation, but said the 48-month sentence was grossly disproportionate to the standard range of zero to three months.
Justice Thomas R. Bjorgen, writing for the unanimous three-member panel, wrote that the judge abused his discretion.
“We hold that the exceptional sentence was manifestly unreasonable, vacate it, and remand for resentencing,” Bjorgen wrote.
The unpublished opinion was filed Sept. 22.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Sara Beigh said once she gets the mandate the appeal is final – which can take as long as 60 days – she will bring Bowen back to Lewis County for resentencing.
According to the state Department of Corrections, Bowen is currently incarcerated at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair.
Beigh said today that in her five years of handling appeals for Lewis County, she can’t recall a case of the appeals court saying a Lewis County judge manifestly abused his discretion.
The prosecutor’s office won’t be petitioning the state Supreme Court for a review, but still will seek an exceptional sentence, Beigh said.
It was less than four years earlier when another Winlock resident was caught stealing lottery tickets at a local grocery store where he was a longtime trusted employee and store manager. Judge Brosey gave Benjamin C. Macy 14 months in prison as Macy attempted to repay the debt. The losses to Cedar Village IGA were said to be close to $1 million.
Bowen was represented in her appeal by attorney Jodi R. Backlund from Olympia.
Backlund also argued the guilty plea was involuntary because there was not a sufficient factual basis for it, but the appeals court disagreed.
For background, read “Winlock woman owns up to stealing thousands of dollars from her employer” from Thursday January 30, 2014, here