A sanity test for an ex-trustee
Is Marcia Ottoman insane-or merely unrepentant?
The answer will determine how long a sentence the former Dexter Township trustee receives for impersonating a federal prosecutor and for wire fraud.
The federal government is arguing she should get at least two years, citing "the severity of defendant's conduct" and "her history of hostility toward others"-as well as her apparent perjury when testifying in a civil case. Last spring Ottoman pleaded guilty to wire fraud and impersonating a federal prosecutor-yet just six weeks later, she swore she'd never been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty.
Ottoman and her husband, Roger, have been trying to avoid foreclosure on their Dexter Township home for more than five years. They coveted a nearby farmhouse belonging to Roger's elderly parents. In December 2006 Marcia sent phony emails and a letter purportedly signed by federal prosecutor "C. Varner." The messages ordered Roger's parents to evict the people who were renting their farmhouse so that Marcia and Roger could move in.
Roger's parents went to the sheriff instead; an FBI investigation and Marcia's conviction ensued. Now, the Washtenaw County prosecutor is considering whether to prosecute her for perjury as well. On June 13, in judge Richard Conlin's District 14A-3 courtroom in Chelsea, attorney Lawrence Krefman asked whether she had "ever been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty." Ottoman answered "No." She insisted, falsely, that the federal case was "still pending" and maintained that she would soon be exonerated.
The prosecution's motion for a stiffer sentence also cited emails Ottoman sent in July 2006 to two paramilitary groups, the Michigan Militia and the Ohio Militia, asking them to get rid of her in-laws' tenants by force. And it referred to another civil case in which developer Rene Papo swore that Ottoman forged his signature this June.
Prosecutors also mentioned Ottoman's use of "her title and status as an elected Township Trustee" to file false accusations against the farm tenants with the local police in 2005 and 2006. Ottoman stepped down from
her trustee post after the federal conviction this spring.
Under sentencing guidelines, Ottoman would get ten to sixteen months in jail. Before her guilty plea, a court-ordered psychological examination concluded that she was competent to stand trial and not insane at the time of her offense. As the Community Observer went to press in August, however, a second examination was pending at her attorney's request, and her sentencing had been delayed till November. At this point, being declared crazy may be Ottoman's best hope of escaping the troubles she's brought on herself.
[Originally published in October, 2008.]