After former Casino Control Commission Chairwoman Violet Anne Golden admitted to stealing nearly $300,000 for luxury trips and shopping sprees, six individuals — including an attorney and a staff member at the jail in Puerto Rico where she’s been awaiting sentencing — have submitted letters of support to a federal judge.
Golden had been scheduled for sentencing today, but U.S. District Court Judge Robert Molloy delayed the hearing to Aug. 13 because courts remain closed to the public to prevent the spread of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Golden, 60, has been in jail at Guaynabo Metropolitan Detention Center in Puerto Rico since January, after pleading guilty to two charges: theft from a program receiving federal funds, and willful failure to file a tax return.
Golden and co-defendant Stephanie Barnes were charged with numerous additional crimes in July after V.I. Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt conducted an audit of the commission’s finances between 2013 and 2016 and found that thousands of dollars in taxpayer money had been spent on luxury trips and personal expenses.
As part of their conspiracy, the women executed contracts and drafted fraudulent invoices showing that Barnes was providing the commission with problem-gaming services despite the fact that Barnes had no experience or education in problem gaming, according to the federal indictment.
Golden’s sentencing had been set for Thursday, and she is likely to face between 18 and 24 months behind bars under the terms of the agreement she signed with prosecutors.
Barnes has pleaded not guilty to all charges and her trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 28.
On Friday, Golden’s attorney, David Cattie, filed six letters with the court from supporters who say Golden should be granted leniency at sentencing.
“My mother is a woman of integrity, honesty and truth,” Golden’s son, David Thomas, wrote in a letter dated May 11. “She has always put people first before herself, dedicating her time unselfishly to her friends, family or community to uphold the standard. She has served in the capacity of a Teacher, Senator and former Casino Control Commissioner just to name a few. Throughout her time in these positions she has worked tirelessly to ensure she got the job done the right way. She wouldn’t have been able to gain access to these positions if her trust was an issue in the eyes of her community.”
Attorney Adriane Dudley, wrote in a letter dated May 21 that in the 44 years she’s been practicing law in the Virgin Islands, “I think I have developed a good instinct for people.”
Dudley has known Golden for more than 30 years both personally and professionally, and “in all that time, I have known her to be a law-abiding, good and generous citizen,” she wrote. “When political whims caused several of my clients to terminate our relationships, Anne successfully encouraged other individuals and entities to retain my services.”
Dudley continued, writing that “I recognize that the offenses and plea in this case involve crimes of moral turpitude against the Virgin Islands and that the Court will want to make an example. In Anne’s case, however, her public excoriation by the Court in accepting her plea and the public humiliation she has faced and will forever face constitute a strong punishment.”
Marsvyn David, a computer technician that worked part-time at the Commission, wrote that “interest in material things and/or personal gain were two things that I never gathered from any conversation or observation. I did not get involved or know Ms. Golden outside of the office, so I cannot speak about that aspect of her life, that being said, the indictments and subsequent guilty plea seem so antithetical to the character of the person with whom I had these conversations over the span of about four years,” according to his letter dated May 5.
“I would hope that the court would be as lenient as it can in the sentencing of Mr. Golden. I think that the things that were most important to her in life have already been taken and will never be regained — her reputation and ‘good name.’”
Her cousin, Rosita deChabert-Swanson, wrote that Golden “worked diligently to make her home a place of pride for its’ residents and all who visited,” and credited her with “providing new areas of enjoyment such as our casinos at Divi Resorts and Caravelle Hotel as well as the exciting and very popular Block Parties at the Caravelle Hotel Boardwalk in Christiansted,” according to her letter dated May 19.
“I hold fast to my belief that Anne has always been an incredible asset for the Virgin Islands. It is due to this belief that I implore your Honor to show leniency to my dear friend, cousin and amazing Virgin Islander.”
Marilyn Franco, supervisor of Education at the jail in Guaynabo where Golden is awaiting sentencing, wrote a letter to the judge on May 1 after working with Golden for three months.
Unlike her other supporters, Franco did not specifically ask for leniency in sentencing, but described Golden as “efficient, detail-oriented, and extremely competent,” according to the letter. “She successfully assists the Education Department prepare students for the General Educational Development tests and English-as-a Second Language Certification tests. She is extremely organized, and never have had an altercation with staff or students.”
A niece, Jasmine Walker, works for the state of Texas and said she is “a lifelong public servant like much of my family, and as such take the charges against my aunt very seriously and very personally. I know more than most how easy it could be to abuse the trust of the public and am very disappointed in her alleged conduct,” according to her letter dated May 17.
“While I believe crimes should never go unpunished, I do not believe prison is the best place for my aunt to atone for her misdeeds.”