AKRON, Ohio - A Summit County woman will spend 10 days in jail after she was found guilty in a school residency case that could set a precedent for Ohio school districts.
Judge Patricia Cosgrove also placed 40-year-old Kelly Williams-Bolar on two years of probation and ordered her to complete 80 hours of community service.
On Saturday, a jury found Williams-Bolar guilty on two counts of tampering with records. She was also facing one count of grand theft, but the judge declared a mistrial on that charge after the jury couldn't reach a verdict.
Williams-Bolar could have been sent to a state prison for up to 10 years, but Judge Cosgrove decided on a 10-day sentence in the Summit County Jail after weighing Williams-Bolar's lack of criminal record with the seriousness of her crimes.
"I felt that some punishment or deterrent was needed for other individuals who might think to defraud the various school systems," Cosgrove told NewsChannel5 after the sentencing.
Prosecutors said Williams-Bolar lived in Akron, but falsified enrollment papers in the Copley-Fairlawn School District so her two girls could attend schools for two years.
Prosecutors said the lies cost the district about $30,000. Copley-Fairlawn does not have open enrollment and out-of-district tuition is about $800 per month.
The school district spent about $6,000 to bring the case to trial. That included hiring a private investigator who followed Williams-Bolar and her children around while secretly videotaping their movements.
Superintendent Brain Poe said Copley-Fairlawn has lost hundreds of thousand of dollars because of parents illegally enrolling their children into the schools.
Poe said residency disputes are usually resolved after parents prove that they live in the district, pay tuition or remove their kids from the schools.
This marked the first time that one of their residency challenges went before a jury in criminal court. Poe said prosecuting this case was meant to send a message.
"If you're paying taxes on a home here... those dollars need to stay home with our students," Poe said.
However, family and friends of Williams-Bolar call this an unfair case of selective prosecution.
"Who's looking at Copley and why they chose this particular young lady, this particular girl and not anyone else?" asked Bobbi Simpson, a friend of the family.
Williams-Bolar is a teacher's aide in the Akron school district and she's pursuing her teaching degree. However, the judge pointed out that Williams-Bolar will not be allowed to be a teacher now that she has a felony record.
Williams-Bolar's father, Edward Williams, also went on trial for grand theft. The jury also couldn't reach a decision on the charge and the judge declared a mistrial.
"They railroaded us. They couldn't get me, but they tried to get my daughter. They wanted to hurt her," Mr. Williams said after sentencing on Tuesday.
Edward Williams is not in the clear.
Prosecutors said he's still facing charges of grand theft and tampering with records for an unrelated fraud case. He's due in court for a status hearing on January 24.
Prosecutors could also decide to retry Williams-Bolar and her dad on the grand theft charges, related to the Copley-Fairlawn school district, that ended in a hung jury.
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