- Mark Gokavi Staff Writer
The former Springfield postal worker found guilty of stuffing mail down her sweatpants more than a 100 times was sentenced Monday in Dayton’s U.S. District Court to five months in prison.
Leanna Heskett, 47, had pleaded no contest to one count of delay or destruction of mail — a count that has maximum sentences of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
Surveillance video obtained by this news organization shows Heskett repeatedly putting packages down her sweatpants, which were often covered by an apron.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rose found Heskett guilty and also ordered mental health counseling and two years of supervised release, including seven months of home confinement.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Vipal Patel said in the era of the “drain the swamp” mentality, Heskett getting no prison time while collecting a disability pension — also while having filed eight EEOC complaints and eight worker’s compensation claims — made her “the poster child for all the perceived issues with federal employment.”
Though Rose ordered no fines or restitution — he said it was impossible to determine who was harmed and by what amount — Patel said the loss was to the public the post office’s reputation, calling Heskett’s case “essentially, everything that’s wrong with the system.”
Federal public defender Thomas Anderson said Heskett has been diagnosed with a mental illness. Despite being fired from the job she spent 17 years at, Anderson said Heskett does receive a disability retirement payment of $1,700 per month.
Anderson disagreed with Patel’s assessment and said that there may not be a federal prisoner who at age 47 is a first-time offender with a mental illness.
“I would like to apologize for the ruckus that I caused,” Heskett told Rose.
Anderson said he’s watched the video with his client and that “she can’t explain it.” He also said “the tape does speak for itself.”
As a mail processing clerk, Heskett’s job duties included sorting and processing mail for Zones 5 and 6 of the Springfield area, which includes the 45505 and 45506 zip codes. Complaints of missing mail led to an investigation.
Heskett had been indicted on 21 counts of mail theft and surveillance video shows her repeatedly taking or altering items addressed to Springfield-area postal customers in May and June 2015. The other 20 counts were dismissed by prosecutors.
Patel argued for a prison sentence between the non-binding advisory guidelines of 6-12 months. Pre-trial services had recommended a one-day jail sentence and probation.
Anderson said Heskett has sexual harassment claims against the post office, and her attorneys recommended a no contest plea, which Rose mentioned when he said Heskett didn’t take full responsibility for her actions.
“The public in this case is the real loser,” the judge said.
Rose allowed Heskett to remain free on bond but said the U.S. Marshals will tell her when and where to voluntarily surrender. Rose granted Anderson’s request for a prison camp to be the first option for Heskett’s sentence.
United States Postal Service records indicate that from Oct. 1, 2015, to Sept. 30, 2016, there the Office of Inspector General closed 1,866 internal mail theft investigations. Those led to 455 arrests and 462 indictments or bills of information, 550 convictions and 1,260 administrative actions.