PORTLAND — An attorney representing Jody Flynn, a Portland woman convicted of stealing nearly $333,000 from investors in a pulp mill purchase, urged a judge on Monday to sentence her to work for a former congressman.

Defense attorney Thomas Hallett told Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court Justice Joyce Wheeler that Flynn had an offer to work 30 hours of community service per week for the nonprofit group United to End Genocide, led by former two-term U.S. Rep. Tom Andrews, D-Maine.

Hallett urged Wheeler to suspend any jail sentence for his client in favor of a heavy community service term working for Andrews, with whom Flynn, a supporter of Democratic candidates and causes, has a long history.

“Does she really need to go to jail to have a point driven home?” Hallett asked Wheeler. “To (sentence her to) devote her life to help others live … I think is a great message.”

But prosecutors from the Maine attorney general’s office blasted the recommended sentence, urging Wheeler to give Flynn a six-year jail term, with all but 3½ years suspended, and full restitution payments adding up to just more than $332,641.

“The message should not be, ‘You get a lower sentence because you have close political friends,’” Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin told Wheeler.

Flynn volunteered as Andrews’ campaign finance director in his successful 1990 and 1992 runs for Maine’s 1st District U.S. House seat, and has continued to be a donor to Democratic candidates and causes since, according to testimony delivered to Wheeler in Portland on Monday.

Among those asking for leniency for Flynn, either in person or through a letter to the court, were former Andrews Chief of Staff Craig Brown as well as influential lawyer and Democratic party activist Severin Beliveau.

Although Wheeler didn’t waive jail time entirely, she did hand down a sentence closer to the defense recommendation than to the prosecution’s.

The justice sentenced Flynn to four years in prison with all but nine months suspended, plus three years of probation, 500 hours of community service work and the full restitution of nearly $333,000. Wheeler did not order explicitly in the sentence that the community service work be performed with Andrews’ organization.

“I have made mistakes. I am flawed,” Flynn told the court on Monday. “I want to move forward and redeem myself.”

Flynn was convicted in a jury trial last month of Class B theft by unauthorized taking, a crime that carried a maximum possible jail sentence of 10 years.

In 2009, Flynn formed Greentree Renewable Energy Inc. alongside business partner Berthier “Bert” Martin. A jury found that she subsequently diverted almost $333,000 of $500,000 wired to Greentree’s account by Chinese investors as part of a deal to buy the former Domtar paper mill — now Woodland Pulp LLC — to her personal accounts.

Prosecutors said Flynn went on to use the money to buy her son an Audi, pay her daughter’s tuition to Boston University, buy real estate and spend thousands on jewelry.

“She was entrusted with funds from a foreign investor and she used a majority of it for her personal expenses,” Robbin told the justice on Monday.

Before the sentencing on Monday morning, Hallett argued that Wheeler should acquit his client of the crime, saying there was no written agreement with the Chinese firm, Charmwell Holding Ltd., specifying what the $500,000 could be used for. Hallett said the dispute over the money should have been settled in civil, not criminal, court, and that he intended to appeal the conviction.

Wheeler denied the motion for acquittal and, after hearing from several character witnesses both for and against Flynn, settled on the nine-month incarceration.

“I do care greatly about the message given to the community about what’s tolerable and what’s not tolerable,” Wheeler said.

Martin, Flynn’s business partner, went on to complete the paper mill deal with International Grand Investment Corp., which eventually bought the mill from Domtar. Grand International is owned by Charmwell Holding Ltd., the same firm that paid Greentree the money Flynn embezzled.

When Martin was paid for his role in the final sale, the money Flynn did not return was deducted from his fees. As a result, all of the restitution money Flynn has been ordered to pay will go to Martin.


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