David Taylor’s friends and family begged the court for leniency Friday morning as Circuit Judge Judy Vance heard almost four hours of testimony before setting Taylor free.
Taylor admitted in June to stealing $95,000 from the Adair County Fire Department while he served as their treasurer. The money was stolen from 2011 until 2015 and the theft was discovered when a local bank notified the fire chief that funds were being taken from the department’s money market account and moved into Taylor’s personal account.
Taylor had been in jail since a hearing on Aug. 29 awaiting sentencing on five felony counts of theft by unlawful taking. After this morning’s testimony, Judge Vance sentenced Taylor to three 10-year sentences and two 5-year sentences to run concurrently for a 10-year sentence. The sentence is probated as long as he pays at least $350 a month in restitution to the fire department.
Kentucky State Police Sgt. Jamie Richard, county Fire Chief Terry Flatt and city Fire Chief Mike Glasgow testified on behalf of the commonwealth. Commonwealth’s Attorney Gail Williams laid out a time frame that started when a local bank contacted Flatt and Glasgow about irregularities with the fire department’s money market account.
Richard said the money was transferred from the department’s account to Taylor’s account during a five-year period. During the first year, Taylor took $7,000 in two draws. The following year he took more than $5,800 in three draws and in 2013 his stole $37,589 during eight different draws. In 2014 he stole more than $29,500 in eight draws and during the first six months of 2015 he stole $15,000 in five separate draws. In total, Richard said they were able to trace 26 withdrawals where $94,932.80 was transferred from the money market account to Taylor’s account. There was also an unknown amount of cash believed to be missing but the amount could not be determined.
“He was considered a brother.”
Aside from the money, however, Williams questioned Flatt and Glasgow about the affect Taylor’s deception had on the department.
“He was considered a brother,” Flatt responded. When a department meeting was called after learning about the thefts, Flatt said all members but one voted to turn everything over to KSP and “prosecute to the fullest extent.”
While Flatt said it will take time for the department to heal, he wanted to assure the community that service will not be affected and providing the best quality service they can remains their number one priority.
Glasgow said he trusted Taylor and felt he had been betrayed. He struggled to speak as he said Taylor “told me he had looked up to me as a father figure, and I thought to myself I didn’t do a very good job.”
“We trusted him with our lives, and not only our lives but our finances,” Glasgow said.
“There is no justifying what he did. ”
Taylor has admitted he stole from the fire department from the moment he was first approached about it. Even during his first interview with Sgt. Richard, Taylor fully cooperated.
Taylor asked the fire department to give him the weekend after they first spoke with him so he could tell his family. His wife, Kristi, told the court how he woke her up at 6 a.m. one morning.
“He told me he had to tell me something that would change our lives forever and if I wanted to file for divorce he would completely understand,” she said.
When asked how it had affected her family, she replied, “To say devastated would be putting it mildly.”
Kristi said David took care of all the finances and she had no idea what was going on.
“I can say when all this happened, I was like the fire department, I trusted David…all my trust was in him.”
After his thefts were exposed, Kristi said she began a journey to sift through their finances for the previous five years. She had been working on her masters and was teaching in a different district, which required a lot of travel.
“We were struggling financially but I did not know the extent,” she said.
While Kristi tried to explain where the money might have gone, she said she was not trying to justify what her husband did.
“There is no justifying what he did. What he did was wrong, and it was a crime.”
She cried as she explained, “We don’t have a pot of gold in our back yard. There is not $96,000 anywhere but I can tell you, after sifting through five years of our finances, it was complete survival.”
To the fire department she said, “I understand the hurt. I’ve been right there with you. I understand your hurt and your pain. I know, David loves you all; I know you are angry, but David is not a bad man.”
She said she made a decision to list their home for sale, saying, “I don’t have anything that’s worth what’s been taken and owed back to you.”
Kristi talked about the embarrassment the family has dealt with and said some people have shunned them. She goes out of town to shop because “it just got too painful.”
Kristi asked the court to grant her husband leniency and give him probation, saying they want the opportunity to pay back the fire department and cannot do that with him incarcerated.
They have deposited $30,315 into an account at the circuit clerk’s office that will go to the fire department to begin paying off the debt. The money was David’s inheritance after his father died in 2015. No other payment has been made.
Kristi said David has always been a good man but she saw some change in him during the years he stole the money.
“David served his community, he grew up in this community and he loved this community. But David became at some point so involved, in the things of this community and serving the community and serving others and trying to be somebody I don’t believe God intended him to be, that he lost sight. He lost sight of direction. I know we’ve talked a lot about spiritual aspects, but in my family, the word of God is our rulebook. That is what we live by. David was not living by that at that time. David has been a Christian since we were young…but he was not living to serve God, he was living to serve himself and his community.”
Kristi asked the court to take into consideration the type of person David is. He has no criminal history and is not a risk to society. He has served as a paramedic, an assistant coroner and with band boosters.
“This is just a huge, huge failure in his life,” she said.
David’s pastor and several friends testified on his behalf and requested that he be granted probation. Taylor works the audio booth at his church and his fellow church members and pastor noted that Taylor has repented and asked for forgiveness.
Carolyn Hale, police officer Brad Scholl, pastor Dr. Bill Scott, Darrell Overstreet, former jailer Rick Wilson, Chester Taylor, and firefighter Chris Bragg all testified about David’s willingness to admit what he had done and ask for forgiveness.
Dr. Scott noted that Taylor pleaded guilty–something rarely done without a plea agreement in place–and said that spoke to Taylor’s character.
“He owned it,” Scott said. “I have seen a genuine heart change in David. He has been participating actively in a discipleship group I am leading. I have seen the change in his attitude. I have witnessed the change in his spirit…at no time has he ever denied wrong…. I see a spirit of repentance in this man.”
Williams questioned several of the defense witnesses about the difference in Christians forgiving others and the role of the law and the courts.
“So because he is a Christian the laws are abdicated?” Williams asked Carolyn Hale.
“I did not say that,” she responded.
Overstreet, who is a deacon at the church the Taylors attend, said David came to him after the thefts were exposed and confessed.
He said the family has been through a very difficult time and he asked that Taylor be given probation.
“When’s enough enough? How much do you punish people? David’s already been punished and will be for the rest of his life. The kids need their daddy at home…We need to give people the opportunity to start over.”
Taylor was the last person to testify in the case and struggled at times to speak as he gave a prepared statement.
“I did break the law. I broke the law of the commonwealth of Kentucky. I also broke God’s law,” he said.
Taylor described himself as a man under pressure trying to make ends meet to provide for his family.
“Looking back I realize what I should have done is I should have asked for help. Mike (Glasgow) addressed it, Terry (Flatt) has talked to me, and I have no doubt in my mind if I’d asked either one of them for help they would have done anything they could to help me.”
Taylor said he let pride get in the way.
“When I did it, yes I knew I shouldn’t be doing it, but it never felt criminal, because every intention was to get it paid back the very next month.”
“I’ve hurt many people. I’ve hurt my family. I’ve hurt my friends. I’ve hurt my church family and I’ve hurt the fire department,” he said. “The monetary side of it…that can be paid back. What’s been done emotionally, you can’t put a price on it. All I can do is ask for your forgiveness. I know it’s difficult for me to sit here and ask you that and to get it, because of the hurt and everything I’ve done to the brotherhood and the family.
“As family and as brothers I hope you can see I’m genuinely sorry for what I did. And I’m going to make it up to you; it may take a long time. I want to try to earn that respect back, and that trust, that you guys had in me, before all this happened.”
“I also want to apologize to the citizens of Adair County.”
Taylor also had a message to the community:
“I also want to apologize to the citizens of Adair County. I love this community. The citizens of this county have entrusted me many times with a great deal of trust and faith,” he said. “I love this community and I don’t want to serve in any other community than this one here. And looking back on it I realize I’ve lost it because of this. I’ll never be able to do any of that again. I won’t be able to help somebody that is having a heart attack or is in pain.”
Taylor said God has been his rock and he has had many wonderful friends help him through this. “I don’t feel like I deserve them,” he said, “after all the pain that I’ve caused them.”
Taylor said he realizes man’s forgiveness is harder to achieve than God’s and it has to be earned. “That’s what I want to do,” he said.
He said he hoped today would be the final step in the legal process and they could begin a path of restitution.
Taylor’s attorney, Joel Smith, urged the judge to allow Taylor to receive probation. Smith said he had never had another case like Taylor’s during 38 years of practicing criminal law. Taylor “demanded that he confess his crimes and his sins to his brotherhood,” Smith said.
Williams, the prosecuting attorney, said he believes Taylor should pay for the crimes he committed. He told about seeing two children excited as a fire truck drove by one day earlier this week.
Williams said he realized those children are not aware of the scandal going on with the fire department, “but they will. This is not going to leave. Mr. Taylor wants it to end today. It’s not going to end for a lot of years. Those children are going to hear about the scandal…what Mr. Taylor took from the fire department and our community, he can’t pay that back. Every time he took money, those 26 times he took money, he also stole trust, admiration and respect. He took those things.”
Williams recommended the maximum sentence for Taylor.
While Vance gave Taylor probation, she didn’t do it without first making several statements.
Vance said she prays for guidance every day, in her personal life and on every case. While Taylor had several people to testify that he “is a wonderful person,” Vance said, “No one is any better than anybody else.”
“I’m going to make a broad statement; if you are going to preach to me then practice what you preach people.”
Speaking to Taylor’s attorney, Vance said, “It saddens me somewhat, Mr. Smith, that there are many people whose intention, when they stand in this room, their intention when they committed a crime, was no greater than Mr. Taylor’s. They may not have the family or the resources to bring before this court…I don’t get to hear all their stories.”
Vance said she has never had a person addicted to drugs stand before her and tell her they made a conscious decision to become an addict.
“We look down on them. We judge them.”
“I’m going to make a broad statement; if you are going to preach to me then practice what you preach people. Practice what you preach.”
Vance said social class does not matter to her nor does it matter to the laws of the commonwealth.
“I put you in jail because you are no different, Mr. Taylor. You’re no different. It was a crime.”
“I don’t care what your background is. I don’t care if you have the resources to come and bring all these people in here to talk to me. We are all people, we all make mistakes.
“I wish this were something people would carry into their lives, to have more compassion for everyone.”
Vance said she knows Taylor is remorseful but he only became remorseful after he was caught. She questioned where they would be in 10 years had the bank not discovered what he was doing.
She also responded to comments that Taylor is not violent and is not a danger to society. She said if she left there and someone tried to steal her purse to get a cocaine fix, they were not trying to be mean.
“Their intent is not to hurt me or to take away from me. They just want to buy some cocaine,” she said. “You wanted to make your house payment.”
Even so, Vance said, “We do probate people often, and the fire department will not receive their money back if you are incarcerated.”
She then sentenced him to 10 years, probated for five years or until he makes full restitution to the fire department, with a minimum monthly payment of $350.