OTTAWA — Three past or present members of the La Salle County auditor’s office were charged with felonies over disputed overtime. Two of them have now been acquitted.
Wednesday, a jury deliberated three hours and then acquitted Tori Artman, a former deputy auditor, of charges alleging she stole county funds by pocketing overtime she knew was not worked.
“I respect the jury system that went on. We’re happy with how the trial turned out. I have no more comment than that,” Artman said before leaving the courthouse.
Artman specifically declined to address whether she would sue for reinstatement — she was suspended and later fired — and Mendota defense attorney Todd Martin said the matter has not yet been discussed.
Martin said he was “relieved” with the verdict, acknowledging the uncertainty of taking any case to a jury.
Asked if he planned to revise his trial strategy for Pamela Wright, another indicted ex-deputy auditor awaiting trial on Aug. 26, Martin replied, “The truth is the truth, so no.”
Auditor Jody Wilkinson, who was acquitted of her companion charges in mid-June, deferred comment until Wright’s case is concluded. La Salle County state’s attorney Karen Donnelly declined comment on the verdict, as did the dozen jurors who filed out after the verdict. Two alternate jurors who were discharged around lunchtime likewise declined to discuss the merits of the case and their impressions.
During closing arguments Wednesday, assistant state’s attorney George Mueller reminded jurors that Artman flat-out admitted some of the disputed overtime (she estimated about half) wasn’t worked. She said so not only to two Ottawa police detectives and to her union representative but also when she took the stand Tuesday.
“I told him (the Ottawa police detective) the overtime was not my idea and I don’t know how it got there,” Artman had testified.
Mueller said that wasn’t a credible statement — less so because Artman is a financial professional whose job was to scour the county’s records.
Mueller acknowledged the amount at stake was comparatively small, about $1,400 remitted over a 10-month span, “but that doesn’t make the activity any less wrong. It doesn’t make the activity any less criminal.”
But Martin told jurors they needed more than an admission to convict Artman of three felonies and argued the state failed to meet its burden of proof. Once the state had obtained Artman’s admission about half the overtime work wasn’t performed, he said, the investigation was pursued no further.
“We don’t know how many hours were not worked because the state didn’t do its job,” Martin said. “You cannot convict Tori Artman on speculation, estimates or conjecture. You can’t do it.”