Ex-Graham aide sentenced to 18 months for pilfering campaign coffers
Ray Chandler/ Special to the Independent-Mail
Thursday, November 20, 2008
OCONEE COUNTY Being bipolar will not keep a former aide to Sen. Lindsey Graham out of prison.
Jennifer Adams told Judge Cordell Maddox on Thursday that she feared being sent to prison for pilfering Sen. Graham’s campaign coffers and obtaining a credit card using the senator’s identity would mean she would be unable to take her medication for her mental disorders.
Instead, Judge Maddox made continuing to take her medication part of Adams’ sentence as he sentenced her to 10 years in prison, a sentence he suspended to 18 months served followed by five years probation.
Adams, 50, pleaded guilty to five counts of breach of trust with fraudulent intent involving more than $5,000 and one count of identity theft. Both the breach of trust charges and the identity theft charge could each have carried up to 10 years in prison.
Adams also must pay restitution of the more than $280,000 she took from Sen. Graham’s campaign coffers, according to Scott Farmer, the campaign manager, between 2002 and 2005 through more than 100 unauthorized disbursements.
She already has made restitution to Sen. Graham personally for $19,342 for charges made to a credit card she obtained using the senator’s personal information.
Adams tied her actions to her illness and asked for mercy and probation so that she could work to pay back the money she took.
“I sincerely apologize,” Adams said to Maddox. “I still feel remorse. I apologize to Sen. Graham and his staff, because I know I hurt a lot of good people.”
Maddox asked, “Do you remember taking this money?”
Adams replied, “I remember some things, and I don’t remember other things.”
Adams said she always rationalized her thefts because she “had one scheme after another” such as selling teapots on the Internet and writing a book she was sure would “make a lot of money” to replace what she was taking.
“I always rationalized it in my head,” she said. “I made the ends justify the means. That’s the kind of problem my bipolar disorder is.”
Delane Rosemond, Adams’ attorney, in his opening statement Thursday said Adams had freely cooperated with South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigators in her case and outlined a history of her illness. That illness, when untreated, was characterized by “reckless, irrational behavior, seeking gratification and having a sense of grandeur,” Rosemond said.
Rosemond said Adams had begun taking the drug Zoloft, or sertraline hydrochloride, for depression in 2002, about the time the trail of thefts from Sen. Graham’s funds began. Zoloft, he said, had the effect of making bipolar conditions worse.
Adams is now taking Geodon, or ziprasidone, which is used to treat schizophrenia, acute mania and bipolar symptoms, Rosemond said.
Rosemond was first to raise the specter that sending Adams to prison would make it difficult for her to continue her treatment.
Adams, of 218 Simpson St., Westminster, was arrested on Dec. 14, 2007, her 50th birthday. She posted a $60,000 personal recognizance bond on that day.
She is a former editor of the Seneca Journal and began working with Sen. Graham in 1994 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She was fired from her position as campaign bookkeeper on June 19, 2007 following a review of campaign financial records.
She had a previous conviction on a fraudulent check charge stemming from 1987. Sen. Graham’s office said at the time of Adams’ arrest that the senator was unaware of that past.
Tenth Circuit Solicitor Chrissy Adams said Thursday that Sen. Graham’s office had been in contact with her office involving the case, but the Senator’s office had no position on the matter.