Hold that sigh of relief — the guilty pleas entered in the Estate Financial fraud case won’t necessarily close the book on one of the biggest financial swindles in county history.
As Tribune writer Melanie Cleveland outlined in Tuesday’s Tribune, Karen Guth and her son Joshua Yaguda still could withdraw their guilty pleas if they disagree with the sentences the judge imposes.
We hope it doesn’t come to that.
A trial would be a long and expensive ordeal, and there would be no certainty that a jury would find the two guilty of all 26 felony counts that have been charged. Even with a conviction, there’s no guarantee that a judge would impose the maximum sentences that some of the victims are seeking.
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That said, we do want to see justice in this case. For the misery they caused their victims — many of whom are elderly — Guth and Yaguda should be forced to serve substantial time behind bars.
Judge Jac Crawford has indicated he’d consider sentencing Guth to 12 years and Yaguda to eight.
The defense is willing to go along with that, but the district attorney’s office and at least some of the victims believe the two deserve stiffer penalties.
So do we.
While eight-year and 12-year sentences may sound like long stretches, when you subtract the year in jail they’ve already served, plus credits for work and good behavior, the defendants could wind up spending less than half that time behind bars.
We aren’t advocating for the maximum terms of 34 years, but we would not like to see Guth walk out of prison three or four years from now.
We also believe the two should be ordered to repay investors every dollar they lost on account of the defendants’ criminal activities. That amount has yet to be determined, but is expected to be well in excess of $3 million.
As we said, we hope that a just outcome can be achieved that will spare the victims the ordeal of going through a trial — and relieve taxpayers of the substantial financial burden of a long and complicated court proceeding.
However, the day we decide that we can’t bring someone to justice because it’s too expensive, it will take too long, or it’s too much trouble, is the day we might as well give up trying to enforce our laws.
As much as we would like to see a trial avoided, that may be what it takes to see justice delivered in this case.