By MELINDA WILLIAMS
A couple convicted in 2003 of stealing money from patients at the defunct New River Assisted Living Facility in Draper were given a warning Thursday to continue paying restitution or face jail time.
By all accounts, Fulton Hoist Jr., 62, and Harolyn Robinson-Hoist, 66, had consistently paid restitution until 2012, when only one payment was made. This year, no payments have been received toward the $20,822 they still jointly owe.
The couple, from Glen Allen, did not testify during Thursday’s probation revocation hearing. Instead, their attorney, David Carlson, told the court the stopped payments were the result of Hoist being laid off from his teaching job and a misunderstanding between the couple and their probation officer.
Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Fleenor said the “primary, if not sole, reason” for the couple being brought back to court is “not paying restitution timely or at all.”
Carlson said Hoist had been teaching at a Washington, D.C. school, but lost his job to a layoff. He pointed out the couple can now begin paying $200 per month because Hoist recently started drawing Social Security.
Robinson-Hoist is slated to complete a master’s degree program at Liberty University in April so she can go back to work, Carlson told Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Marcus Long Jr.
Carlson said the couple stopped paying restitution because their probation officer put them into a special program and “they thought they were in a holding pattern.” He explained that they notified the probation officer there was a problem as soon as Hoist lost his job.
When the couple learned Wednesday that warrants had been issued for them for failing to pay restitution, Carlson said, they went to see him. They turned themselves in at New River Valley Regional Jail Thursday morning.
Although they were initially only scheduled for a bond hearing Thursday, Carlson asked that the court proceed with the probation hearing instead.
Carlson asked Judge Long to take the matter under advisement since the situation was “a matter of economics due to the loss of a job.”
Although Hoist and Robinson-Hoist originally were ordered by the court to each pay $25 per month on their restitution, Carlson pointed out there were months when they paid more – sometimes up to $400 or $500. The full amount of restitution they owed was $34,897 and they have paid $14,075, according to the court clerk.
Fleenor said the couple’s restitution history isn’t the worst case the Commonwealth has seen. He said he is glad they’re not out getting into additional trouble or using drugs like the court often sees. He preferred the court make a finding rather than take the case under advisement, “in case we have trouble again in the future.”
Judge Long said the couple “clearly” violated terms of their probation, but “I do believe they’re decent people” who were trying and fell victim to the economy.
Nonetheless, Long said he has never taken such a case under advisement and he doesn’t intend to start now. He said he normally would impose a six-month to one-year jail sentence.
“You’ve got to make your restitution payments,” Long told Hoist and Robinson-Hoist. “You embezzled from someone and you owe them restitution. To me, that’s as important as passing drug tests. I don’t want to send you to jail.”
The judge revoked the full nine years, 11 months and 20 days remaining on each defendant’s sentence. He then re-suspended the full sentence and ordered the couple be placed on indefinite probation until all of the restitution is paid.
“Quite frankly, this is a first for me,” Long told the defendants, referring to the fact he didn’t impose a portion of the sentence to be served.
He agreed to the $200 per month restitution payment, but pointed out it will take another eight to nine years to pay it all at that rate. “It’s already been 10 years,” he said, suggesting they pay more if possible and not pay any less.
Long warned them they’ll probably each receive about half of their remaining sentence if they are brought back to court on a probation violation.
“I’m giving you a huge break today. Don’t come back in here,” he said.