On Aug. 10, Stephen Grisham will report to federal prison to begin serving a 12-months-and-a-day term for stealing from vulnerable veterans and others. The sentence, handed down Friday in Minneapolis by Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim, is half of the lower end of the presumptive sentence, of 24 to 36 months, that he faced when he pleaded guilty to misappropriation by a fiduciary.
Grisham may end up serving only nine months, if he behaves himself in prison. Yet it's quite a comedown for the former conservator whose reputation for integrity made him a go-to guy when other appointed decision-makers bungled the job. When he entered his plea last July, he said he used the money to feed a gambling addiction.
"They trusted me. They came to me in trust," Grisham told the judge. "I violated that in every way possible."
The revelation of Grisham's thefts and subsequent collapse of his company, Alternate Decision Makers, resulted in a costly mess as lawyers and court officials probed the scope of the damage.
Grisham has pledged to pay restitution as quickly as he can to the still-unnamed victims, whose benefits he was hired to handle. That figure has climbed to $157,961, although the figure would decrease because of a $1,000 check that Grisham's lawyer said he brought to court.
The potential for making victims whole persuaded Tunheim that Grisham would not abuse his relatively brief loss of freedom. "I don't feel the need to protect the public from further criminal action by you," the judge said.
"I want to wish you the best. I appreciate the commitment to pay these people back," Tunheim told Grisham. "I hope you've learned a lesson from this."