TWIN FALLS - Ongoing mental health help is the key to Michael Wayne Holley's success on probation, District Judge Randy Stoker said.
The Buhl man who pleaded guilty in July to helping hold a fraudulent cancer fundraiser was sentenced Monday to supervised probation on a count of grand theft by deception.
Stoker sentenced Holley, 54, to four years of probation. If unsuccessful on probation, Holley could serve three to 10 years in prison.
Stoker waived reimbursement of the public defender's office, despite the tremendous time spent on the case, because of Holley's financial situation. That's an unusual waiver, Stoker said.
Holley, and his wife, Lisa Holley, 44, were accused in August 2012 of holding the fundraiser car wash for a daughter they said had leukemia. They were charged after Idaho State Police said the two accepted $1,200 in cash from an undercover officer. Police said the girl was not sick.
Last October, prosecutors filed an additional charge against Lisa Holley. Police said she faked being pregnant with triplets and took $1,435 in money and gifts from members of a Buhl church.
In court on Aug. 16, Lisa Holley changed her plea to guilty on two charges of grand theft by deception in the cancer fraud case. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the charge in the fake pregnancy case. She's scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 21.
Both Holleys entered their pleas as Alford pleas, meaning they agreed to the facts of the case but not to every accusation made against them by law enforcement.
At previous court hearings, Michael Holley was argumentative with attorneys and a judge, even storming out after nearly hitting his attorney with his cane.
Initially, prosecutors made a deal with Michael Holley saying they would suggest probation if he successfully applied for and participated in Twin Falls County's mental health court.
He applied to the court but was denied.
"The mental health court window is pretty narrow," said Michael Holley's attorney, George Essma.
Essma said in court Monday that his client had been seeing a counselor weekly and would continue.
"I have seen a real change for the positive in Mr. Holley in the time I've represented him," Essma said.
Deputy Prosecutor Rosemary Emory said probation was the appropriate sentence for Holley.
Emory said she hopes Holley takes probation seriously and continues to participate in mental health counseling.
Michael Holley described how his psychiatrist helps him deal with ramifications of a brain injury and apologized for the fundraiser and raffle that led to his arrest.
"Lisa was just wanting to get (their daughter) home," he said. "That was the whole thing about the car wash and the raffle. She wanted her home."
Stoker said Michael Holley's success on probation depends on him continuing to work with mental health counselors and asking lots of questions.
"Be candid with your probation officer," Stoker said. "They don't want to send you to the penitentiary, and neither do I."