Woman sentenced in forgery

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 6, 2001

A former courthouse employee was sentenced to an intensive supervision &uot;house arrest&uot; program Monday after pleading guilty to forging the names of a local judge and two local attorneys.

Louise W. Barnes, 44, 132 Otis Redding Drive, gave her plea to Circuit Court Judge Forrest &uot;Al&uot; Johnson.

After accepting her plea to the felony charge of uttering a forgery, Johnson decided the nature of the charge and the cost of placing someone in jail would not make placing Barnes in jail the best option.

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&uot;I find that there would be no point served in your case in incarcerating you in the Mississippi Department of Corrections,&uot; Johnson said.

Instead he sentenced Barnes to five years in jail but he first placed her in the MDOC’s intensive supervision ISP program — a relatively new program in Adams County.

Barnes, who is a former deputy clerk for the Adams County Circuit Clerk’s office, can serve up to a year in the program. As long as she abides by its restrictions, she will serve the remainder of her time on post-release supervision.

Johnson also ordered Barnes to pay a $5,000 fine plus court costs.

If she does not pay this amount by the end of her time in ISP, she will then be sent to a state restitution center to work off the balance, Johnson said.

Barnes pleaded guilty to forging the names of Adams County Judge John Hudson and attorneys Debra Blackwell and Lisa Jordan to a fake court document to avoid paying a phone bill.

She is believed to have added their names to the fake document by photocopying them as a unit off a court document they had signed together and them photocopying them onto the fake document. Johnson said this is the first case of this type he could recall in Adams County and he considered the matter serious.

&uot;The court knows this is a serious matter because it affects the integrity of the court system,&uot; Johnson said.

Barnes took advantage of her job to fake a court order for personal gain, Johnson said.

Barnes also has a previous charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States through the U.S. Department of Agriculture from the early 1990s but that charge did not involve a felony conviction.

Johnson said he was unaware of the details of the charge but through pre-trial intervention, Barnes may have avoiding a conviction by fulfilling certain requirements.

Barnes’ attorney, George F. West, and her minister, Rev. Leon Howard, spoke on her behalf at the hearing.

&uot;There’s no excuse for the seriousness of what took place but there is nothing in the record that would show a pattern,&uot; West said.

His client does not have a tendency to commit crime and she is sorry for her actions, West said.

&uot;She has gone to her church,&uot; West said. &uot;She has made things right with her God.&uot;

Howard agreed with West and also said Barnes has discussed the matter with her church.

&uot;As her pastor naturally I have to ask for leniency,&uot; Howard said. &uot;She’s not a bad person but it’s a terrible mistake.&uot;

The forgery took place around June 20 causing Barnes to no longer be employed by the Adams County Circuit Clerk’s office.

Uttering a forgery can carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.