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Judge balances woman's good and bad sides

In sentencing embezzler Jennifer J. Reed to probation Thursday, Circuit Judge Cynthia Raccuglia took into account Reed's good and bad sides.

The 51-year-old Reed, of rural Marseilles, stole at least $102,270 from Pathways to Hope, a nonprofit organization with the aim of supporting people sexually abused by clergy. Reed was the group's executive director and sole full-time employee for several years before the charity folded.

Prosecutors believed, and Raccuglia also suspected, Reed stole as much as $348,000, but it could not be documented. Reed denies she did anything illegal, claiming the money supposedly embezzled was legitimately spent to further the goals of Pathways to Hope.

Pathways to Hope was based in Chicago, but Reed spent much of the embezzled money in La Salle County, as well as in the western suburbs and around Illinois. She was charged in 2013 and found guilty by Raccuglia after a bench that ended Oct. 11. Reed has been out of custody on bond.

Prosecutor Jeremiah Adams asked Raccuglia to give Reed a five-year prison term, while her attorney, Randy Gordon of Morris, asked for probation. Raccuglia went with four years of probation, saying probation is "punishment enough for the side of you that has done this."

Raccuglia also ordered Reed do 400 hours of community service and undergo a mental health evaluation. As far as restitution, details will be hashed out at a hearing set aside for that purpose Wednesday, Jan. 24.

Raccuglia observed Reed did help people through Pathways to Hope, but nonetheless her guilt was "open and obvious," and "nobody (in Pathways) was watching her."

Adams voiced skepticism Reed will pay back the money, describing her as "broke." Adams noted that nevertheless, since Reed was charged, she continued to spend money on such expenses as her hair and nails, as well as on vacations. Adams said it wasn't right for someone to steal as much money as did Reed, and never "see the inside of a jail cell."

Before the sentence was pronounced, Raccuglia asked Reed if she had anything to say. Reed replied she disagreed with Raccuglia that she was guilty, but did "respect the process."

Reed had no prior criminal record.

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