Original article no longer available
By Mark Bowes
Published: July 15, 2009
The former manager of JetBlue Airways’ terminal operations in Richmond was sentenced yesterday to serve three years in prison for embezzling more than $300,000 from the airline over two years in hundreds of bogus check and credit-card transactions.
Carol Davidson, 43, wept as she apologized to the court and her family for a thievery and spending spree that two clinical experts testified was due to mental illness that fueled irresistible and destructive behavior. The former kindergarten teacher was a person of high moral character until her disorders overtook her, they said.
“That’s the paradox,” Dr. James E. Sellman, a board-certified psychiatrist, told the court.
After a nearly two-hour hearing that chronicled her extensive physical and mental-health difficulties that experts said left her “totally disabled,” Henrico Circuit Judge Gary A. Hicks sentenced Davidson to a total of 100 years in prison but suspended 97 years of that term on 13 felony counts of embezzlement, forgery and passing phony checks.
He also ordered her to make restitution in the amount of $309,735, a revised amount from earlier theft estimates of $338,000.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Wade Kizer asked that Davidson be sentenced to four years and eight months, the midrange of state sentencing guidelines for her crimes. But defense lawyer William J. Dinkin said Davidson’s extreme mental illness couldn’t be factored into the guidelines and that a six-month term would be more appropriate.
Sellman, who examined Davidson three times, testified she suffered from a variety of psychiatric ailments, most notably bipolar and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Those problems, coupled with serious health issues that led to five hospitalizations, overwhelmed her along with her rapid rise at JetBlue, where she worked 80 to 90 hours a week and oversaw 65 employees.
Sellman said Davidson’s mental-health issues initially were misdiagnosed by another doctor, and she was prescribed medication [Zoloft] that affected her judgment and impulse control.
Sellman said Davidson’s rapid cycling of mania and depression created a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect in Davidson that was “profoundly disabling and severe.”
But Kizer questioned how such an irrational person would be capable of carefully forging employee names on JetBlue checks and hiding her use of a company credit card for her own expenses. Investigators discovered $800 worth of pizza expenses, $8,000 in sports club memberships for family members and their friends, $104,000 in travel expenses that included a trip to the Caribbean, $45,000 in clothing and $300-to-$1,200-a-pop grocery purchases at Ukrop’s.
“It was not an isolated act,” Kizer said. “It was literally hundreds of illegal acts. It went on, and it went on, and it went on.”
Contact Mark Bowes at (804) 649-6450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.