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Ex-travel manager released from prison

July 02, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

After serving 10 months of a five-year prison sentence ordered for a five-count felony theft conviction, former CW Travel Inc. Manager Rebecca Calimer Price, a Greencastle, Pa., woman who gave birth to her first child while incarcerated, was released from prison Friday by Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley.

Beachley, who sentenced Price, 31, in September 2004 after convicting her for the theft of more than $23,000 from some of the clients of CW Travel Inc., a now-defunct Hagerstown travel agency Price managed in late 1999 and early 2000, ordered Friday that she be released from prison, saying that under federal sentencing guidelines, someone convicted of the same crime would be considered for a sentence of between 10 and 16 months.

The maximum penalty in Maryland for a conviction on one count of felony theft is 15 years.

Beachley said she "has suffered the consequences from her criminal actions."

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He soon after told her that her crime was serious.

"Your actions represent a lack of respect and decency for fellow citizens," he said, adding that it's an important message on the heels of Independence Day. Price nodded as he spoke.

She was convicted in July of stealing from some of her clients by having them make checks payable to her for either defunct airplane tickets or for payments on trips that didn't happen, including a senior citizens' group cruise to the Caribbean and a group trip to a NASCAR race.

One of the victims, Price's former co-worker, Sherry Valentine, 56, said after the hearing, "She cried today. I think maybe she has an idea of what happened."

Price said Friday afternoon that she hopes the victims "can learn to forgive and not let the choices I've made bind them ... The only thing that I can do for them is be responsible to make that change in my life. I can't take back the past, but sure can impact the future."

She was incarcerated at Maryland Correctional Institution for Women-Jessup (Md.). She gave birth to her first child, Hannah Elizabeth Moats, on Jan. 19, more than four months after she was sentenced. Anti-abortion group Defend Life campaigned for her release, saying her sentence was unjust and she needed to bond with her baby.

Price said Friday afternoon that she plans to "go home and pray with (Hannah) and be the mother I haven't been able to be."

Price's grandparents had taken care of Hannah while she was incarcerated.

Price had paid $20,000 in restitution by the hearing Friday, said her attorney, Martin Palmer. Beachley said the balance owed, $3,492, had to be paid by the end of the day.

Beachley ordered her to serve five years of probation, the first year of which he ordered to be supervised. She is prohibited from travel sales or the sale of air transportation, he said.

Beachley originally suspended 11 years of a 16-year prison sentence for the convictions, which he ordered on Friday to remain suspended. He suspended the balance of the five-year sentence she was serving, giving her credit for time served.

Price's family waited outside a holding cell area inside the courthouse for more than an hour for her to walk out while Price waited on Maryland Division of Correction paperwork. When Beachley returned from lunch, he saw that she had not been released yet, called a special hearing and ordered her immediate release.

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