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Thompson sentenced to six months to four years at CCJ
Saturday, November 17, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
Rachelle Thompson, 48, of Philipsburg, a former State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale employee who had an affair with an inmate and provided him with cell phones, was sentenced to six months to four years in Clearfield County Jail yesterday by President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman.
Thompson pled guilty halfway through her trial in October to the charges of weapons or implements of escape, contraband-telecommunications device.
Thompson was a former drug and alcohol counselor at SCI-Houtzdale, and between April 10, 2010, and September 2011, she had an illicit affair with an inmate, Jason Campbell, 30, of Philadelphia and provided him and his cellmate with cell phones.
On the charge of weapons or implements of escape, Judge Ammerman sentenced her to six months to two years at CCJ and a $500 fine plus court costs; on the contraband-telecommunications device charge, he sentenced her to up to two years at CCJ and a $500 fine plus court costs to run consecutively.
Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. said Thompson would likely serve the minimum of six months in jail.
During the hearing, Thompson's attorney, Ron Collins, asked the court for leniency, saying Thompson exercised bad judgment but has never been in trouble with the law before and there is no chance she would be a repeat offender. He asked Ammerman to sentence her to probation, but said if he feels incarceration is necessary, he asked that she serve it under home incarceration.
He said she is trying to put her life back together and is receiving counseling, and she was even able to find employment despite the negative publicity surrounding her trial.
Judge Ammerman also said Thompson is an educated, productive member of society who made a very big mistake.
Shaw argued a nine-month minimum sentence would be appropriate but told the court that if Thompson is willing to testify against Campbell at his upcoming trial, the commonwealth might be willing to change its position. During their plea negotiations at her trial, Shaw told the court that Collins told him Thompson was refusing to testify against Campbell.
Campbell had refused to testify against Thompson at her trial and at her preliminary hearing, and was held in contempt of court and sentenced to six months to one-year additional time in jail for each contempt charge.
Campbell is also serving a 20-year plus prison sentence on conspiracy to commit murder and burglary convictions.
Shaw told the media after the sentencing hearing that if she testified against Campbell, he would consider dropping his objections to her serving house arrest or getting work release.
Shaw said he believes Thompson deserves to serve some time in jail for her offenses because she put the safety and security of the staff at SCI-Houtzdale at risk by giving the inmates the cell phones.
"That is what cannot be tolerated," Shaw said.
He said prison staff members received threatening calls from Campbell and his friends and said Campbell was using the camera on the cell phone to take pictures of the locks at the prison, likely in an effort to find a way to defeat them.
Fourteen friends and family members, especially her adult children, gave emotional testimony on Thompson's behalf and asked the court for leniency and pleaded with the court that she serve no jail time.
Thompson's mother said her daughter was always bright and hard working, and that she married her high school sweetheart. She said when Thompson started having marital problems, it left her vulnerable to being manipulated by an inmate.
"She is a good person, she is an honest person, and good people learn from their mistakes," she said.
Thompson's son and two daughters gave a similar account saying her separation with their father left her vulnerable. They said their mother is very remorseful and humiliated for what has happened and has been very hard on herself during this entire ordeal.
William "Keno" Beezer, former director of the Moshannon Valley YMCA, said Thompson has been a longtime member and volunteer at the YMCA. He said for years she was a gymnastics coach and an instructor for the Silver Sneakers Program. He said she would often counsel children who were having difficulty, all free of charge.
Thompson also spoke on her own behalf. She repeatedly said, "I'm sorry," to the Department of Corrections, to the court and to her family. She said she realized what she did was wrong and had compromised the security at SCI-Houtzdale.
In addition to those who spoke in person, many more submitted letters to the court on her behalf.
After Ammerman announced his sentence, Collins asked that his client be given additional time before serving her sentence, saying he would like some time to file some motions and that she is not a flight risk. Shaw objected, but Ammerman agreed that she was not a flight risk and told her to report Nov. 26 to begin serving her sentence.
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