Ex-Meriden Postal Worker Gets Jail Time

  • Kim Smith

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/18/2016 10:45:56 PM
Modified: 11/21/2016 4:45:02 PM

Newport — A former Meriden postal worker who pleaded guilty last month to opening mail and stealing cash and gift cards will spend the next 30 days in jail.

Kim Smith, a Hartland resident, will then be placed on home confinement for the remainder of her 12-month sentence. Sullivan Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker on Friday also ordered Smith pay a $1,200 fine and remain on conditional discharge for three years after her release.

Between August and November 2015, police said, the 51-year-old Smith opened mail, stole the contents and then resealed the envelopes and sent the letters on their way. She was accused of stealing 17 gift cards with a total value of $920 and $200 in cash. She faced up to seven years in prison and a $4,000 fine for the felony-level offense.

A contested sentencing hearing was held in the Newport courthouse on Friday, and Tucker split the sentence between recommendations from prosecutor Justin Hersh and public defender Jennifer Cohen.

Hersh sought a 12-month sentence with six months suspended plus a probationary period, while Cohen suggested a fully suspended sentence and probation.

Cohen called Philip Kinsler, a licensed psychologist, to the stand during the hearing. Kinsler performed a forensic analysis on Smith to try to understand her behavior in connection with the crime.

Smith suffers from mental health issues, including severe depression, and has psychological trauma stemming from her treatment as a child, Kinsler said. Her husband was also recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she was caring for two elderly women and she was working long hours to make ends meet, he said.

“This was an unbidden and unwanted compulsion that came out of unconscious processes that she was really not in touch with,” Kinsler said.

She is “unbelievably ashamed” of her actions, Kinsler said, and in his opinion, is unlikely to reoffend.

Smith submitted a handwritten letter at her sentencing, but did not speak publicly.

Tucker said he took into account that Smith didn’t have a prior criminal record and had accepted responsibility for her actions. Despite that, he must weigh all factors when considering sentencing, including punishment and deterrence, he said.

“You abused a position of trust,” Tucker said, noting Smith’s actions weren’t a “one-time theft.”

Last month, Smith also pleaded guilty to carrying a loaded handgun in her vehicle without a license, a charge that arose after police searched her vehicle in connection with the theft investigation. She received a suspended sentence on that charge.

Smith’s case began developing in late summer 2015 when Meriden residents called authorities about mail that appeared to have been tampered with.

In response, the postal service in October installed a surveillance camera inside the Meriden Post Office, which is located on the Kimball Union Academy campus and deals largely with mail headed to post office boxes and the KUA community.

Footage captured Smith in the act, and when she was interviewed by police, she confessed, police said.

Prosecutors have had trouble returning the stolen property to its rightful owners because gift cards, specifically, don’t have personal information on them.

Smith had worked for the postal service for more than a decade, including at the Hartland, Weathersfield and Lebanon post offices. She is no longer employed by the postal service.

Smith had remained out on bail since pleading guilty in October. She entered the courthouse through the front door, but left with the assistance of a sheriff to begin serving her sentence.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

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