A Virginia homeowner was furious when a jury pooled donations to pay the court fines for an illegal alien convicted of stealing more than $5,000 worth of jewelry, a report says.
A jury convicted 19-year-old Sandra Mendez Ortega of robbing Lisa Copeland of her engagement and wedding rings when the convict was serving as a housemaid for the victim. Despite the conviction, the jury felt so sorry for the pregnant Ortega that they pooled their money to pay the $60 fine levied upon the perpetrator.
The victim in the case criticized the jury for its out-of-court donations, insisting that their actions made a mockery of the law.
“I just pray that they’re never in my shoes,” Copeland told the Washington Post.
Copeland went on to point out that the problem is not exactly the $80 in donations the jurors pooled but that the convict never apologized or showed any remorse for her crime. “If she had accepted accountability, I would be okay with all of this. The fact that she won’t accept accountability makes it wrong,” Copeland said.
Jury foreman Jeffrey Memmott defended their actions.
“The general sentiment was she was a victim, too,” Memmott insisted. “Two of the women [jurors] were crying because of how bad they felt. One lady pulled out a $20 bill, and just about everybody chipped in.”
Another juror exclaimed that they acted out of compassion. Even though they were compelled to convict the thief, Janice Woolridge added, “There’s also got to be some compassion somewhere. Young people make bad decisions. We just couldn’t pile on any more.”
The victim was outraged by the whole situation.
Copeland initially reported the theft of the rings to the Fairfax City police, whose investigation turned up nothing. But police said that after some time, Ortega returned the rings and apologized to them and, with their help, wrote a short note of apology.
But Copeland says that she was never shown any apology letter, and Ortega never apologized to her in person. The victim was also upset that the jury was never told that Ortega is an illegal alien, a fact prosecutors claimed “wasn’t relevant” because it had nothing directly to do with the theft of the jewelry.
“It really irritates me that she came here and committed a felony,” Copeland’s husband, Jeff, said. “People are coming here because there is opportunity here. But when they come here and commit crimes, that’s where you’ve got to draw the line.”
Copeland was also infuriated when members of the jury later confessed that they tried hard to find ways not to convict Ortega at all. Copeland insisted that the whole chain of events was never aired in court.
“The whole time she was telling the sob story,” she said. Copeland told the Post that after Ortega took the rings, “she lied to the cops, she lied to her employers. She didn’t turn in the rings, she made somebody else do it. She confessed but claimed that the rings were in the bathroom. And then she tried to blame her boss.”
Despite the fact that the rings were worth enough that the conviction was for felony theft, the softhearted jury decided against jail time and only recommended a $60 fine, which meant that their $80 in donations ended up giving the thief $20 extra after paying her inexpensive fine.
Unable to speak any English, Ortega thanked the jurors through an interpreter. “I became happy when I heard they wanted to give me that money,” the interpreter said Ortega told them. “Thank you very much to all of them; God bless them.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.