Kelley Williams-Bolar served all but one day of her 10-day sentence, after being convicted of a felony for falsifying documents claiming residence in another school district.
Williams-Bolar’s case has garnered national attention — and outrage. The single mother did what dozens of other families in Akron had — put their kids in good, well-funded schools and out of low-achieving, sometimes unsafe ones. But she was the only one to face charges — and jail-time — for her actions.
Judge Patricia Cosgrove, who is bearing the brunt of national outrage over the Williams-Bolar case, allowed for the day-early release by crediting the single mother with time she had already served back in 2009 when she was arrested and charged in the matter.
Cosgrove is speaking out about the case, after the heat of everyone’s rage turned to her. Cosgrove explained that attempts to get prosecutors to allow Williams-Bolar to plead guilty to misdemeanors, or to reduce the charges outright, went nowhere with Summit County prosecutors, who wanted to make an example of Williams-Bolar to other parents considering ignoring district boundaries. All talks outside the court met with failure, the judge said.
She told reporters [via Ohio.com]:
”The state would not move, would not budge, and offer Ms. Williams-Bolar to plead to a misdemeanor,” the judge said in an interview Wednesday.
”Of course, I can’t put a gun to anybody’s head and force the state to offer a plea bargain.”
County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh wouldn’t respond to reporters questions about the case.
The judge also spoke out and defended her courtroom comments, which included comments about Williams-Bolar future as a teacher. Williams-Bolar was a few credits short of getting her teaching degree and eventual teaching license. She worked as an educational assistant at a school for special needs children, where she earned $13.55 per hour.
Cosgrove told Williams-Bolar at her sentencing hearing that in addition to jail time, community service and probation, she faced another punishment. From an Ohio.com report on the hearing:
”Because of the felony conviction,” Cosgrove said, addressing Williams-Bolar directly inside the packed courtroom, ”you will not be allowed to get your teaching degree under Ohio law as it stands today.”
Cosgrove’s comment provoked outrage. She told the press her words had been misconstrued. Again, Ohio.com:
‘I did not mandate or order that her teaching license be suspended or revoked,” Cosgrove said Wednesday. ”That is absolutely inaccurate.”
Cosgrove said Williams-Bolar’s nonviolent felony offenses do not necessarily mean that she will lose her teaching certificate. She said Ohio law only states that a felony conviction ”may” be grounds for such action.
The judge said the Ohio Department of Education will hold a hearing and make the final decision ”whether or not they will revoke her license.”
”I have nothing to do with that as a matter of law. Once she was convicted by a jury of any felony, that conviction has to be reported to the state, and then it’s up to the state at that point in time to decide whether or not they’re going to revoke her license,” Cosgrove said. ”This is the Ohio legislature who wrote this law, not [this] court.”
… Because Williams-Bolar had no previous felony record, Cosgrove said she will write a letter to the state Board of Education asking that Williams-Bolar’s license not be revoked.
”I will do everything I can, as far as sending a letter, asking them not to consider it,” the judge said.
The county prosecutor has plenty to answer for, such as why Williams-Bolar and her father had been singled out. And why she wouldn’t consider a plea agreement or misdemeanor charges for a woman with no criminal record, two children in school (the wrong school but still!) and who was working her way out of poverty.
Perhaps a petition calling for Walsh’s resignation should be next up on the agenda.
Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville is meeting with Walsh today to discuss why she insisted on felony charges in the Williams-Bolar case.
Photo: Akron Beacon Journal