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Vt. Woman Gets Treatment Instead of Jail Time for Felonies

White River Junction — A 20-year-old Reading, Vt., woman pleaded guilty on Tuesday to forging her mother’s and grandmother’s checks and other charges.

Emma Harley pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanor charges and five felony charges in Windsor Superior Court. As part of her plea agreement, she must seek opiate addiction treatment at Valley Vista in Bradford, Vt., said Deputy Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said.

Harley is still awaiting sentencing. But she could be eligible for five years of probation on the misdemeanors and receive a deferred sentence for the felonies if she successfully completes her Valley View treatment. After five years, if Harley complies with her conditions, her felony charges can be expunged from her record.

The plea deal, however, is contingent on completing of the Valley Vista program. Harley could still face prison time if she does not finish the program. A single forgery charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Harley was arrested last month and charged with extortion and attempting false pretenses after she allegedly called her mother, Elizabeth Harley, and told her that a man was at their Reading home with a gun to her head demanding to be paid money that Harley owed him. Police determined that Harley fabricated the incident.

The false pretense charge stemmed from Harley trying to obtain money from another person but the judge found no probable cause for the extortion charge.

“Either one of those charges would have adequately characterized the conduct,” Cahill, the state’s attorney, said. “From the state’s perspective, we took no issue with the judge’s determination that the conduct was characterized as false pretenses.”

Harley’s defense attorney, Jordana Levine, declined to comment yesterday.

Harley’s mother did not return a request for comment.

Charges to which she pleaded guilty included four forgery charges, one grand larceny charge, three false pretenses charges, one domestic assault charge, one charge of operating a vehicle without an owner’s consent.

On Tuesday, Emma Harley was arraigned on 18 new forgery charges, but pleaded guilty only to three of those charges. The remaining 15 forgery charges will be dropped as part of her plea agreement.

On Oct. 13, Harley’s mother called police to notify them that her daughter allegedly wrote fraudulent checks from her account totaling about $6,000. Forgery is punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison.

“The forgery charge is the criminal justice system’s sledge hammer,” Cahill said. “It’s a very powerful tool and we need to use it sparingly.”

Emma Harley was also charged in September for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars worth of fine silver and dinnerware from her mother in July. Her mother advised police that her daughter sold the items to pawn shops and that her daughter had been using pills and other prescription narcotics, according to the police report.

Emma Harley also pleaded guilty to a forgery charge and two false pretense charges of forging her grandmother’s checks.

Other charges stemmed from an incident in late October when Elizabeth Harley called police and said that her daughter, Emma Harley, had assaulted her when she wrestled her to the floor and took her car keys. According to the police report, Elizabeth Harley told police that she is afraid of her daughter because her troubling behavior had been escalating.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.