This article as originally published on GoErie.com by Madeleine O’Neill on Jan. 4, 2018
The former chief executive of a local nonprofit pleaded guilty in August to embezzling more than $65,000 from the organization, which provides housing services for people with disabilities.
He now claims he can’t be housed in a work-release facility while he serves his sentence because of extensive medical issues.
The defendant, 48-year-old James M. Gray, appeared in court Wednesday for a hearing on his latest motion to modify his sentence.
Erie County Judge Stephanie Domitrovich sentenced Gray in September to serve nine to 23½ months in the Erie County Prison, which he could serve on work release, followed by five years of probation.
The sentence was on the high end of the standard range of state sentencing guidelines, Domitrovich said, because Gray had been in a position of trust when he stole $66,862 from the nonprofit, Supportive Living Services Inc.
In a motion filed Dec. 15, Gray asked to be granted early parole or permission to complete his sentence on electronic monitoring. He said at Wednesday’s hearing that his longstanding autoimmune disorder, myasthenia gravis, has been exacerbated by sharing living quarters with other men at the work release facility where he is serving his sentence.
Myasthenia gravis can cause muscle weakness and a host of other symptoms. Gray said his condition requires that he be hospitalized for treatment for hours at a time several times a month, and that he has suffered several infections that have made his treatment more difficult during his incarceration.
“His health is becoming worse … because of the environment he’s in,” said Gray’s lawyer, Michael Petro, of Pittsburgh.
Assistant District Attorney Jessica Lasley said the request showed a lack of remorse for the crime.
“The reason why he’s in there is because of his own doing,” she told Domitrovich during the hearing.
Domitrovich said she will rule on the motion at a later time. She noted that Gray is not working and has not made any payments toward restitution.
This is Gray’s second attempt to have his sentence shortened. Domitrovich denied a motion to modify the sentence filed by Gray’s lawyers in October.
Erie police accused Gray of taking the funds from Supportive Living Services, 210 E. Second St., between May 2015 and April 2016 by writing checks to pay two shell companies that he controlled, according to information in the criminal complaint. Gray served as the organization’s executive director during that time, the complaint states.