Kelsea Jensen, age 21, was sentenced in district court in Glendive on Tuesday. Jenson was a clerk at the Glendive Loaf ‘n’ Jug when she and her accomplice fiance Matthew Jensen stole over $6,700 dollars from the store and then attempted to cover it up by making it look like a holdup. Initially charged with Robbery, prosecutor Marvin Howe explained to the court that the charge had been changed to theft by accountability similar to an employee embezzlement because Jensen was an employee of the establishment she stole from.
Jensen apologized to the court and the community and said she hopes she can do better from this experience. She explained that at the time her accomplice and father of her baby was not employed, she was had several years of bills piled up and was behind on her rent and felt overwhelmed and saw the theft as an easy way out. She said that all of the money taken as well as a $2,100 tax refund all went to bills.
District Judge Richard Simonton’s sentence was structured around both restitution and rehabilitating Jensen’s decision making.
He sentenced her to six instead of the usual three years of probation with a deferred sentence noting that if she pays back all of the restitution plus fines the time can be reduced before she is released from probation. Additionally she will be required to work with her probation officer in all matters financial including employment and debt choices. He noted that although Jensen has no alcohol or drug drug history she is not allowed in bars or casinos because there should be no extra money for alcohol or gambling. Any extra money, he said should be applied toward restitution.
Judge Simonton also sentenced Jensen to Cognitive Principles and Restructuring training which essentially teaches an individual to recognize what triggered criminal behavior and how to divert thinking to better choices and options.
The Judge also reminded Jensen that probation can be more difficult than prison because there are rules and someone will always be looking over her shoulder. Should she fail probation, Jensen could face 10 years in a women’s prison.
Noting the case seemed to revolve around a concern for her child, the Judge’s last admonition to Jensen, and to her long-time companion and co-defendant Matthew Wiseman, was that in the various reports to the court the relationship between the two was unclear and he admonished them “for the sake of the the child, can’t you two make a commitment to each other. Someday your child might appreciate it.”
In a community where minimum wage jobs are daily confronted by rising prices from an influx of oil wage jobs, Jensen’s predicament is not unusual – not knowing where to turn in times of financial crisis.
If you find yourself in such a situation, there are several places to turn for help in the Glendive area:
-Action for Eastern Montana can give help and guidance for rent and utility assistance.
-The Dawson County Food Bank, Monday Night Community Supper at the Assembly of God Church, and free bread products are available daily at the county health department.
-Zion Lutheran Church has a furniture program
-Job Service staff can work work with individuals looking to build skills and find better jobs
-Snap assistance, formerly called food stamps has a much higher income limit than it once did.
-Most clergy of all denominations are more than willing to sit down and talk about issues like these and help you figure out how to move forward and find connections in your community.