Did a mother steal public education? The Jury reached a verdict

Unusual residency trial ends with fiery closings

AKRON, Ohio - A Summit County jury started deliberating around 11:30 Saturday morning in the case of a mother accused of stealing educations for her children from the Copley-Fairlawn school district.

At 7 p.m. Saturday, a decision was reached.

Kelly Williams-Bolar, 40, is charged with one count of grand theft and two counts of tampering with records.  Her father, Edward Williams, 64, is also on trial for grand theft.  Prosecutors said Mr. Williams took part in the deception against the district.

The jury found Kelly Williams-Bolar guilty of two counts of tampering with records. The jury could not reached a unanimous decision on either count of grand theft for Williams-Bolar or Edward Williams.  The judge declared a mistrial for both counts of grand theft.

Bolar-Williams could get up to five years for each count of tampering with evidence.  She will be sentenced Tuesday, January 18 at noon.

In a passionate closing argument, assistant Summit County prosecutor, Michael Cody, yelled to the jury, "She's guilty. He's guilty. Find them so."

The crux of the case centers around where Kelly Williams-Bolar was living when her two girls attending Copley-Fairlawn schools between 2006 and 2008.

The district believes Williams-Bolar was living in a home on Hartford Avenue in Akron, and therfore, she should have paid tuition for the kids to attend Copley-Fairlawn schools.

The district does not have open enrollment and officials estimate Williams-Bolar stole educational services totaling more than $30,000.

Tuition is about $800 per month for families that live outside of the district.

"It does not matter if, when she started the lie in 2006, she didn't know she was going to get caught," Cody said.

The defense argued that Williams-Bolar's primary address was Black Pond Drive in Copley Township, where Edward Williams lives.

During his closing argument, defense attorney Kerry O'Brien told the jury that the district took exception when the Williams' stood up for what they honestly believed were their rights to attend the schools.

"Which begs the question, "Is Copley-Fairlawn using the prosecutor's office as a club to do their collection work?", O'Brien said to the jury.

The criminal case is highly unusual because school residency disputes are usually resolved between the district and parents, not a jury.

In fact, most courtroom observers can't remember any trial similar to this one.

The jury, made up of seven women and five men, examined several pieces of evidence, including school enrollment paperwork, W-2 forms and a lease agreement through Akron Metropolitan Housing authority.

Williams-Bolar and her dad each testified in their own defense on Friday.

Williams-Bolar said she lived "at the family home" with her children in Copley Township.

However, she also testified that she paid bills at the Akron home and told an investigator with AMHA that the kids lived with her at that house.

The case will be watched closely by many school districts because it could affect the way districts handle residency issues.

O'Brien said Copley-Fairlawn has handled between 30 to 40 residency cases, but this marks the first time an investigation turned into criminal charges.

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