Former Lawrence mayor Jeremy Farmer — soon to be sentenced for stealing from a charity he once led — has asked for a lighter penalty than what sentencing guidelines demand for his crime.
Saying he has cooperated with authorities and maintained a steady job, Farmer asked a judge to grant him probation instead of prison for his guilty plea to embezzling funds from the Lawrence food bank Just Food, according to a motion for variance filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas by his attorney, John Cowles. While no amount is stated, the document indicates restitution will be paid in the case.
Farmer is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 15 in Kansas City, Kan., by Judge Carlos Murguia.
Based on the particulars of Farmer’s case and criminal history, sentencing guidelines call for 10 to 16 months in prison, with the possibility of half the time being served on supervised release, according to the motion.
Cowles said there were “substantial reasons” to justify a variance from that.
“The defendant has cooperated completely with federal law enforcement by accepting responsibility for his actions before he was even charged in the case,” Cowles said.
For the past year as his case has pended in court, Farmer has been out of jail and complied with the court’s conditions, his attorney said. Also, despite the nature of his offense, Farmer found and has maintained full-time employment “with the intention of earning income that he can use immediately to start paying on the restitution he will owe in this case.”
The document does not say where Farmer works.
Cowles said Farmer has no criminal record.
“The defendant has absolutely no criminal history of convictions or even arrests, felony, misdemeanor, or juvenile,” Cowles said. “The defendant’s lifetime as (a) law-abiding member of society is a strong factor to consider in fairly sentencing this defendant.”
Farmer was charged in August 2016 and pleaded guilty the following month to interstate transportation of embezzled funds and securities, a felony, according to a plea agreement filed in court.
Farmer admitted to embezzling by fraud more than $5,000 from Just Food from 2013 until he resigned in August 2015, and concealing it by “adjusting” QuickBooks entries and financial statements provided to the Just Food board, according to the plea agreement.
Farmer was hired as executive director of Just Food in 2011. Voters elected Farmer to the Lawrence City Commission in April 2013, and fellow commissioners unanimously voted him to become mayor of Lawrence in April 2015.
Farmer resigned from Just Food on Aug. 10, 2015, and also resigned as the city's mayor days later.
A month later, representatives of the Just Food board alleged that an examination of their financial records showed Farmer made unauthorized payments to himself of more than $52,000 in salary and benefits over a two-year period. The alleged overpayments were in addition to more than $61,000 in federal and state payroll taxes that went unpaid while Farmer served as the executive director, Just Food said.