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Crime & Courts

Former Deputy Auditor Tori Artman found not guilty in overtime pay case

Defense attorney argued 'state didn't do its job'

After just a little more than three hours of deliberation Wednesday afternoon, a jury returned a verdict of not guilty on all three counts in former La Salle County Deputy Auditor Tori Artman's overtime pay case.

Artman was found not guilty of theft of $1,358.88 of overtime pay between Oct. 24, 2016, and Aug. 7, 2017, as well as not guilty of official misconduct and conspiracy to a theft.

The La Salle County Board barred Artman from her office and then the Salary and Labor Committee fired her April 25.

Neither she, nor her attorney Todd Martin, would comment on whether Artman would seek to get her job back. Artman has filed an unfair labor complaint asking for reinstatement of her job that has yet to be heard.

La Salle County State's Attorney Karen Donnelly had no comment after the verdict.

Auditor Jody Wilkinson, Artman's supervisor, was found not guilty June 14 in the pay case.

Artman was the first of two former auditor employees to go to trial on the overtime theft charges. Pamela Wright, 54, of Ottawa, also is charged with receiving $1,672 in pay for overtime work prosecutors said she didn't perform. Wright is scheduled for trial Monday, Aug. 26, with a pretrial hearing set for 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 23.

Attorneys gave their closing arguments Wednesday morning in Artman's case, after presenting their cases Tuesday and selecting a jury Monday.

In his closing remarks Wednesday, defense attorney Todd Martin said the state didn't do its job in proving Artman's guilt. While Artman agreed in her testimony she received pay for time she didn't work, prosecutors did not provide evidence on how much illegitimate overtime was worked. Martin said the jury couldn't convict his client on speculation or estimations, because Artman could have been speaking about a different time period than police detectives thought.

He also said the overtime was added to Artman's timecards by Wilkinson in small enough amounts Artman didn't notice. He said she had direct deposit and didn't keep tabs on overtime pay. When it was brought to light, Artman asked to repay the illegitimate overtime.

Assistant State's Attorney George Mueller responded in his final statement Artman told police herself she worked about 50% of the overtime put on her time card. He said Artman's willingness to pay back money she didn't work is her own acknowledgement she did something wrong. Mueller also thought it was suspicious someone who works in the auditor's office and deals regularly with finances wouldn't pay attention to her overtime pay.

Mueller didn't buy Artman's testimony she didn't know about Wilkinson adding overtime to her time card, saying if a boss had concocted a scheme to pay her employees a de facto raise through overtime, she would have wanted to tell her employees.

Following the verdict, Artman said she respected the jury system, but she did not want to comment any further.

Martin said he was relieved. He said jury trials can be unpredictable, but he believed the jury took its role seriously, and "they listened to the evidence."

Martin also represents Wright, who is the last of three charged from the auditor's office in the pay scheme.

"I have to do it again in two weeks," he said, noting he will not do anything significantly different in Wright's trial. "The truth is the truth."

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