Ohio Gov. John Kasich reduced the charges against a mother who lied about her residency to send her children to school in another district, saying the punishment didn't fit the crime.
Kelley Williams-Bolar was convicted in January of two felony counts of tampering with records for using her parents' address so she could send her daughters to Copley-Fairlawn City Schools without paying tuition. She lived in public housing in Akron at the time and said she didn't want to leave her daughters home alone after school.
Williams-Bolar, a teacher's aide, served nine days in jail after receiving a five-year suspended sentence. In her appeal for clemency, she claimed that the felony convictions would prevent her from obtaining a teacher's license.
In a rare departure from a recommendation of the Ohio Parole Board, Kasich reduced her convictions to two misdemeanor counts of tampering with records, saying the punishment seemed excessive.
"No one should interpret this as a pass; it's a second chance," Kasich said in a statement. "The penalty could exclude her from certain economic opportunities for the rest of her life. So, today I've reduced those felony convictions to what I think are the more appropriate first-degree misdemeanors."
The state parole board unanimously recommended against clemency Friday, saying she had acted deceitfully and failed to investigate legitimate options. Kasich was not obligated to follow their recommendation.
Williams-Bolar initially sought full clemency, said her lawyer, David Singleton. He sent a letter to the governor's office Tuesday, saying Williams-Bolar would be satisfied with misdemeanor convictions.
"We are grateful to the governor for doing what we think is the very courageous thing in commuting the sentence, in the face of a unanimous recommendation from the parole board," Singleton said. "She's looking forward to being given a fresh start and a new opportunity to resume her studies, finish college and become a licensed teacher."
Kasich's commutation retains the rest of the original conditions of her sentence, including that she report for probation, serve 80 hours of community service and maintain full-time employment.
Prosecutors claimed that Williams-Bolar had plenty of time and opportunity to end her deceptions before she was indicted in October 2009. Instead, she continued to "fight and build on her deceptions," the parole board wrote in its recommendation.
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh, whose office tried the case, released a statement regarding the governor's ruling, acknowledging that he was not bound to follow the parole board's recommendation.
"I greatly appreciate the time and care the jury took when considering this case. After hearing all of the evidence, the jury upheld the laws set forth by the Ohio legislature that state that tampering with government documents is a felony offense. And I was pleased that the Ohio Parole Board also carefully considered all of the facts on this case, including information that was discovered between the conclusion of Ms. Williams-Bolarâ€™s trial and her clemency hearing."