AYER — After a jury last month convicted Shirley Recreation Commissioner H. Keith Begun of forgery, a district court judge on Monday placed the charge “on file” allowing Begun to avoid jail, probation or a fine.
With more than two dozen of Begun’s supporters in Ayer District Court on Monday, Judge Barbara Pearson agreed that because a felony conviction of forgery is already “very tough to overcome,” she placed the charge on file for one year, eliminating any punishment.
At the end of the year, the charge will be dismissed if Begun, 52, of 83 Benjamin Road, Shirley, has no further legal issues.
During a trial in October, prosecutors argued that Begun forged the signature of another commission member last January to get $1,500 “up front” for a 2012 Cam Warrior Equipment Trailer, instead of getting reimbursed. The jury found him guilty of forgery.
But the jury found him not guilty of a second charge of forgery in connection with allegedly forged signatures on a $1,500 invoice from a bogus business to buy a Vicon Spreader, which he actually purchased off Craigslist.
The questioned invoices were discovered by the town accountant.
He was also found not guilty of uttering a false writing and a third charge of forgery was dismissed.
Prosecutor A. J. Chalifour argued that whether or not Begun profited, he forged a signature and should be placed on probation for one year with an $1,800 fine.
While Begun didn’t profit personally, he lied to police who were probing the invoices.
“Why the big lie?” Chalifour asked.
Defense attorney Melissa Devore argued at Monday’s sentencing hearing that Pearson should “set aside” the jury’s verdict and find Begun not guilty because her client never personally profited from the forgery.
She presented the judge with 40 letters of support for Begun, noting the hours he has spent volunteering for the community.
“Putting him on probation would subject him to harassment by the community and the police,” Devore said. “He is not someone who needs to be on probation.”
Devore added that a felony conviction for forgery on his record would cause “huge collateral consequences” for him.
Pearson rejected setting aside the jury’s verdict. Devore said she has already filed a notice of appeal.
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