Having failed to convince the Arkansas Board of Pardons and Paroles that she should be let out of jail early, former Pine Bluff School District employee Lynda King now wants a federal judge to do it.

Having failed to convince the Arkansas Board of Pardons and Paroles that she should be let out of jail early, former Pine Bluff School District employee Lynda King now wants a federal judge to do it.

King has filed legal paperwork asking U.S. District Judge Brian Miller to either vacate her sentence, honor the sentence reductions that Circuit Judge Berlin Jones ordered, rule that the remainder of her sentence be suspended or that she had served her sentence and should be released immediately, run all the charges concurrently with each other or any combination of those options the judge might decide on.

In 2009, King pleaded guilty to 1,577 counts of forgery, theft of property and attempted theft of property stemming from a police investigation that covered an eight-year period, from 2001 to 2008.

King worked in the district central office and would prepare counterfeit invoices on a company the district had done business with in the past, then after the district wrote checks to cover the invoices, she would deposit the checks into a bank account she had opened in a similar name, then electronically transfer the funds to another account where she could access them.

She was sentenced to 80 years in prison by Jones — 10 years for every year she was charged with stealing money from the district — with each 10-year sentence to run consecutively, or after the previous one.

She was also ordered to pay restitution of $747,047.63 to the Pine Bluff School District.

In September 2009, Jones reduced that sentence twice, the first time to 38 years, then later in the month, suspended 18 additional years of the sentence, leaving King with one 20-year sentence.

In 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court reinstated the 80-year sentence, ruling Jones lacked authority and jurisdiction to modify the original sentence.

The high court said once a judgment and commitment order is entered by the trial court, the jurisdiction is transferred to the executive branch of government, in this case, the Arkansas Department of Correction.

In August 2011, the parole board ruled that King’s application to have her sentence commuted was “without merit.”

Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter and his office had filed an objection to King’s clemency application, with Hunter objecting to King’s claim that there were no victims of the crime, as well as a claim that there were two other people involved in the crime but they were never charged.

At her sentencing hearing in 2009, King told the court “she acted alone.”

In a petition filed in federal court, King said “if not for the misconduct of the prosecutor and her attorney, the outcome of her case would have been different. The fact that material evidence was not presented at the sentencing hearing or made known to the judge violated petitioner’s right to a fair trial.”

King also said that she would not have pleaded guilty to the charges “if threats were not made to charge petitioner’s husband and son.”

U.S. Magistrate David Young, who was initially assigned King’s petition, said the trial court found that “the claim of a coerced confession was not supported by any evidence of coercion.”

Regarding the claims of misconduct by prosecutors or her defense attorneys, Young said that claim “was without merit because the petitioner (King) failed to allege that any evidence, material or otherwise, was withheld from the defense.”

Young recommended that the petition be dismissed, a ruling Miller rejected when he set a hearing for King in March.

In his opinion, Young wrote that “several aspects of this case are troubling. For example, the sentence itself, though lawfully imposed and within the statutory range allowed, appears harsh.”

When King filed a petition in state court seeking a reduction in sentence, she included newspaper clippings of several similar cases that resulted in lower sentences.

Among those cases, the former principal of a school sentenced to three to six years in prison for stealing $900,000; a former treasurer/bookkeeper at the Bearden School District who was sentenced to six months in jail, ordered to pay restitution and given probation; and a former clerk in Union County who pleaded guilty to second-degree forgery and theft of more than $275,000 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

“Also, the trial judge who imposed the sentence had second and third thoughts concerning the sentence but lost jurisdiction of the case and was therefore unable to change the sentence,” Young said.

Young said that although King’s petition should be dismissed, “the unusual facts may be noticed in a request for clemency.”

In her hand written petition to federal court, King said she has “suffered tremendous stress from the initial sentence, embarrassment and public humiliation. Petitioner has stressed her sincere remorse for the crime she committed publicly and her willingness to work endlessly and volunteer her time to the community as part of her punishment for the crime she committed.”

In the same petition, King said she “had answered all questions in her petition to the best of her ability giving due respect to her having little or no knowledge of the law.”

Miller, acting on a request from King at the hearing in March, appointed Little Rock attorney Jeff Rosenzweig to represent her, and also ordered the court clerk’s office to pay Rosenzweig for the work he does.

Rosenzweig had not filed anything with the court clerk’s office through Friday afternoon.

King will be eligible to apply for parole on Feb. 22, 2022.