El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Douglas C. Phimister wasted no time in sentencing Donald Atkinson after calling the case to order following a lengthy meeting in the judge’s chambers Monday morning.
Atkinson, the former president of the El Dorado County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, appeared in-custody with his attorney, Robert Banning, sitting next to him. Deputy district attorney James Clinchard and Stephanie Clark from the county Probation Department appeared with Assistant Attorney General Ronald D. Smetana, who jointly prosecuted the case with the DA’s office.
After declaring he had read the recommendations from the Probation Department, Phimister sentenced Atkinson to five years in state prison on three charges of felony embezzlement by a public or private officer exceeding $950, with a special allegation of excessive loss of more than $200,000; felony theft from an elder or dependent adult, Lise Lotte Holzer; and perjury pertaining to statements regarding money of the DSA with a special allegation of it being an aggravated white-collar crime. Restitution and court fees added up to over $400,000. Atkinson agreed in an earlier hearing to pay $1,000 per month from his retirement fund.
Atkinson will owe more than $338,000 to the DSA and $100,000 to Holzer. Property and assets totaling about $55,000 will be split by Atkinson and his wife Sandra, with Atkinson’s half being used towards restitution.
According to a press release from Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and District Attorney Vern Pierson, Atkinson “opened bank accounts in his name and submitted forged documents to the DSA to justify payments made to him and his companies. Much of the money was obtained through ATM withdrawals and checks payable to Atkinson, which made his actions difficult for auditors to trace.”
Atkinson claimed money he was drawing from the DSA account was going to charity, including the families of four murdered Oakland police officers, when he was instead pocketing the money. An apartment for a woman Atkinson was in a relationship with was also paid for with the money. An investigation revealed Atkinson had falsified Fair Political Practice Commission forms and had forged documents he submitted to the DSA, the press release stated.
A hearing on further restitution will be held on Aug. 29 at 8:30 a.m. Atkinson will be held in the county until after the hearing, when he will be remanded to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Atkinson waived his right to appeal.
An elderly victim with cancer had loaned Atkinson $100,000 to purchase a photography business, but Atkinson, according to bank statements, did not use the money for that purpose. He had also falsified information on the contract he signed.