A Virginia jury chipped in to help pay the fine of a maid they convicted of stealing $ 5,000 worth of jewelry from a house she was cleaning.
Sandra Mendez Ortega, a 19-year-old mother, was found guilty of felony grand larceny for swiping three rings from her employer, Lisa Copeland. Rather than sentence her to jail, the jury ordered that she pay a $ 60 fine.
Jury foreman Jeffrey Memmott explained to the Washington Post the jurors felt sympathy for Mendez Ortega, who is pregnant with her second child and unemployed.
“The general sentiment was she was a victim too,” he said. “Two of the women (jurors) were crying because of how bad they felt. One lady pulled out a $ 20 bill and about everybody chipped in.”
In all, they handed $ 80 to Mendez Ortega’s public defender — more than enough to cover the fine.
Copeland in September 2016 realized her engagement and wedding rings were not in their usual spot and phoned Fairfax police. Authorities questioned all three women who cleaned the house but did not charge anyone.
Following the interviews, Mendez Ortega felt guilty about stealing the jewelry and turned over the rings to Copeland’s husband after admitting to the theft, according to the Post.
She also confessed to authorities, who had her write an apology letter to Copeland.
“Sorry for grabbing the rings,” she wrote. “I don’t know what happened. I want you to forgive me.”
Copeland said she never received an apology from Mendez Ortega — neither written nor in person — and disagreed with the jury’s handling of her case.
“I just pray that they’re never in my shoes,” she told the Post. “If she had accepted accountability, I would be okay with all of this. the fact that she won’t accept accountability makes it wrong.”
Mendez Ortega, who is living in the country illegally, faced up to $ 2,500 fine and 20 years behind bars.
“I became happy when I heard they wanted to give me that (money,” she said. “Thank you very much to all of them, God bless them.”
With News Wire Services
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