Convicted Sister Asks to Take Guilty Plea Back


July 23, 2008

OMAHA, Neb. -- An Omaha woman who was sentenced to prison for theft said this week that she wants to change her guilty plea.

Video: Sister Asks To Take Back Guilty Plea

Sister Barbara Markey, 73, was convicted of embezzling more than $250,000 from the Omaha archdiocese. She was sentenced to three to five years in prison.

Markey said she wants a new trial so she can get a new sentence. Her attorney said on Wednesday that the nun didn't enter her plea knowingly and that she was sentenced too harshly.

"You have a probation recommendation from the probation officer, the church didn't oppose it, and the prosecution didn't oppose it. So we were shocked, to say the least, when the judge sentenced her to prison," said attorney Bill Gallup.

Gallup said he can't think of a reason why his client would get what he called the back of the judicial hand.

"We felt we were misled in a number of respects," Gallup said. "First of all, we had an agreement with the church that they wouldn't do anything to oppose probation, and the church didn't. But some priest, on his own, sent a letter critical of the sister to the probation office, and we feel that's a breach of the agreement we had with the church."

Gallup also said dollar amounts of the embezzled money are in dispute and that new information from the IRS would have helped Markey.

"That's another thing that we think warrants a new trial," he said. "We were not aware of the fact there was exculpatory evidence provided by the federal government that would have aided her at the time of her sentencing."

Gallup notes that it's often very difficult to get guilty pleas withdrawn after someone is sentenced.

"To me, it seems to be a situation the defendant doesn't like the sentence they got," said Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine. "So now, (they say), 'I want to change my mind about pleading guilty."

Kleine said Judge Thomas Otepka was very careful to make sure Markey understood both her rights and her guilty plea.

"They were well aware of the sentencing parameters the judge could give them. The judge said, 'I'm not bound by anything but my own judgement, what I should sentence you to.'" he said. "I know Judge Otepka. He's very serious about his job, very thorough. He did his job to the best of his ability, thought this was the appropriate sentence, to which we agree."

We left a message for the priest who allegedly sent the letter that Gallup is referring to, but he did not respond.


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