Longtime Charles Village community activist Sharon Guida was sentenced to three years probation today in circuit court, after she and several supporters said her activism itself led to her theft of over $50,000 from a local bank.
"I'm going to make the probation unsupervised," sentencing Judge Timothy Doory said from the bench after suspending a three-year prison sentence for one count of theft and one of forgery. "Our probation officers are busy enough."
Guida has been a fixture in the neighborhood for decades, often leading the weekly crime walk with city police officers. She was disbarred in 2012 "for signing multiple individuals' names to various documents filed with the Register of Wills without authorization,"
The current case became public in June and involves title insurance policies. While working as a contract employee for Kosciusko Bank between 2008 and 2014, Guida handled about 130 real-estate closings. In 54 instances she forged signatures and either failed to record mortgages or failed to remit payments to the registry of deeds and to title insurance companies, according to the statement of facts in the case. When she was caught this spring, she told the bank president that she "needed the money." Soon after that she confessed to a police detective with a video camera.
"She is an honest person,"
, former president of the Charles Village Community Association and Liquor Board member, told the judge. She was one of several character witnesses who testified on Guida's behalf. All said that Guida's selfless dedication to unpaid neighborhood work had led her to neglect her paying job as a lawyer, forcing on her hard financial choices.
"If I didn't step up to make sure the community would be represented . . . then no one else would," Guida told the court after apologizing for her thefts. "I took on the obligations to the detriment of my own personal life."
She said she took client funds only on a part-time basis, believing she could repay them. "I am committed to making amends," Guida said.
Doory seemed swayed, but he stopped short of giving Guida the probation before judgment her attorney had requested. Instead, he encouraged her to file for a modification of the sentence, and he converted the restitution to a civil judgment of $51,051.
"Tomorrow is a new day," Doory told Guida from the bench. "Use it to become a new person."