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Former Chatfield officer sentenced for theft

By John Weiss

weiss@postbulletin.com

PRESTON — A former Chatfield police officer will have to spend an extra 60 days in jail because he violated the trust people had in him.

Fillmore District Judge Robert R. Benson on Monday sentenced Ryan Lettner, 29, of Rochester, to 180 days in jail. He said that’s a third more than he would usually give a person for the same offense because Lettner was a police officer.

"The fact remains you were in a position of trust and confidence," he told Lettner.

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In July, Lettner pleaded guilty to two charges in regards to the theft and conspiracy in the theft of construction equipment. He made an Alford plea, meaning he didn’t admit guilt but said that if the matter had gone to trial, it was likely he would be found guilty.

Lettner will also have to do 64 hours of community work service, pay a $6,000 fine and help pay $16,317.17 in restitution. Two other people have been charged in connection with the thefts in 2004; if they are found guilty, they would be liable for part of the restitution.

Lettner will also will have to resign formally from the Chatfield Police Department and permanently give up his peace officer’s license.

At the end of his sentencing statement, the judge said, "I really don’t know, Mr. Lettner, how you got yourself into this."

Lettner had no criminal history.

In his statement, Lettner didn’t admit to the crime, though he apologized to his family and friends for what they went through.

Houston County Attorney Rick Jackson, who prosecuted Lettner to avoid a potential conflict of interest, stressed the loss of public trust when seeking a sentence of 240 days.

It was a first offense, he said, "but your garden variety thefts don’t happen when they are aided by a squad car and badge," he said. "The defendant took the oath when he pinned the badge on the first time. He violated that."

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Defense attorney Gary Gittus sought probation or less jail time. Lettner has suffered "some very real consequences" because he lost his job, career and regard for himself, Gittus said.

"There is a continual loss of respect and the stigma that will perhaps haunt him for the rest of his life," he said.

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