TWIN FALLS — A judge denied a post-conviction relief request earlier this month from a former College of Southern Idaho employee who embezzled more than $530,000 from the college.
Dawn Marie Orr — a former CSI business office employee — pleaded guilty to five felony counts of grand theft. She was sentenced in July 2015 in Twin Falls County Fifth District Court to at least 10 years in prison, with the potential of serving up to 70 years. Orr was also ordered to pay $677,735.58 in restitution.
Orr filed a petition for post-conviction relief in August 2017. In a judgment Jan. 10, Judge Benjamin Cluff dismissed the case.
Orr “has not borne her burden in proving that she is entitled to post-conviction relief,” according to a memorandum decision.
In her petition, Orr made nine claims, “which she alleges provide her relief from her conviction,” according to the memorandum decision. Those are ineffective assistance of counsel, improper consideration of evidence by the District Court, bias by the District Court and the state’s alleged breach of a plea agreement.
Shortly after the sentencing, Orr’s attorney Steven McRae — who represented Orr from the pre-filing stage through direct appeal — learned sentencing judge Randy Stoker “may have been a victim of an embezzlement-type crime by an employee prior to becoming a judge,” while Stoker was an attorney 15 years prior to Orr’s sentencing, according to the memorandum decision.
Stoker, a judge in Twin Falls County for 15 years, died in January 2018 after a battle with cancer.
Orr’s petition alleges the state “improperly attempted to persuade the District Court not to follow the Plea Agreement” and that “the District Court abused its discretion when it imposed a sentence above the State’s recommendation,” according to court documents.
In a nearly full courtroom during her 2015 sentencing, Orr cried as she apologized to family members, friends and former coworkers.
“I will never forgive myself for what I’ve done,” she told the crowd.
During the sentencing, Stoker said it was the worst embezzlement case he has seen in his 40 years in Twin Falls. Stoker called the crime “outrageous” and an affront to the community.
Prosecutor Stan Holloway asked for a prison sentence of up to 14 years. But Stoker said 40 years wasn’t sufficient.
According to court records, Orr told CSI administrators on July 31, 2014, that she stole money and admitted it when she could no longer live with the guilt.
Orr — an assistant in the CSI business office for 17 years — admitted she had a gambling problem. She exchanged checks for cash from the safe and overstated third-party billings.
Orr admitted to detectives that she’d taken money since 2007, but several years expired under the statute of limitations.
Orr had mental breakdowns for years that went undetected, McRae said during the 2015 sentencing hearing. She has bipolar disorder, a gambling addiction and depression, Holloway said.
Orr took all the money she stole to Jackpot, Nev., and put it in slot machines, McRae said, calling it a tragedy. A common theme in letters from Orr’s treatment providers is that she’s remorseful and a hard worker, he said during sentencing.
After being fired from CSI, Orr worked at C3/CustomerContactChannels and quickly rose through the ranks, McRae said. But she left after news of her charges came out.