Katrina M. Bowen waits for her hearing to start, to find out what her revised sentence will be.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – The Winlock mother whose sentence for stealing thousands of dollars from her employer was deemed by an appeals court to be too harsh got it cut in half today.
Katrina M. Bowen was back in Lewis County Superior Court this afternoon, in front of the same judge who gave her four years for the crime, twice what prosecutors recommended at the time.
The victims, the owners of the Flying K store and gas station in Toledo, Gordon and Tonya Lovell, attended the hearing as well.
Gordon Lovell told the judge they are still in business, but almost decided to call it quits last year because of the financial devastation.
“It’s been two years, and I still owe back taxes and still haven’t been able to pay some of my creditors,” he said.
The court previously concluded Bowen owed them $137,000 in restitution.
Bowen worked for the couple for eight or nine years, but they only collected data from the two years before the theft was discovered and they fired her, he said.
“For those two years, she was stealing from us every single day that she worked,” Lovell said.
Bowen, then 37, admitted to the police chief to pocketing money from beer sales and to helping herself to as many as 500 $5 lottery scratch tickets each shift during the previous six months. She said she was keeping track of them in her head, and then admitted she had a gambling problem.
She pleaded guilty in January of last year to first-degree theft with an aggravating factor that it was a major economic offense, meaning the judge would be free to hand down an exceptionally long sentence.
In its opinion issued in September, the Washington State Court of Appeals said Judge Richard Brosey abused his discretion, and four years was clearly excessive.
Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Eisenberg recommended 24 months at her first sentencing, and recommended the same today.
Defense attorney Don Blair the first time asked that she get 90 days, the top of the standard sentencing range for a person with no criminal history.
Blair reminded the judge he’d previously argued his client only stole around $20,000.
He didn’t specify today what he thought her new sentence should be, but offered the court a listing of Bowen’s accomplishments.
While incarcerated, she has completed a two-year business technical degree, participated in an A.A. 12-step program, and taken courses in parenting, nonviolent relations and stress management, he said.
She works in the prison kitchen and also on a crew that works outside the institution four days a week, according to Blair.
“Katrina realizes she has a gambling problem and was in treatment up until the time she went in,” Blair said.
Judge Brosey said those were commendable steps, but don’t help the victims.
He pointed out that he believed before, and still does, that the problem with this type of theft is it can drive a small business entirely out of business.
The judge also said he felt the Court of Appeals focused too much on the lottery ticket theft and not the rest of it, because the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office didn’t make it clear enough.
“This was bigger than lottery tickets,” Brosey said.
He agreed with a 24-month sentence.
“That should result in her being released, with credit for time served and with good time, immediately, if not sooner,” Brosey said..
Bowen has been ordered to make payments of $25 per month for her financial legal obligations, including restitution.
The Lovells said they haven’t seen any of it yet, and estimate it will take her more than 400 years to pay off what she owes.
For background, read “Appeals court says Toledo lottery theft sentence is too long” from Wednesday September 30, 2015, here