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Monday, December 11, 2006

Former TSU professor will leave prison early


A former English professor at Texas Southern University, who has served six months of a 10-year sentence for stealing thousands of dollars from programs she managed at the school, could be released on probation before Christmas.

Dottie Malone Atkins, 67, pleaded guilty in April to theft by a public servant in connection with fraudulent requisitions she created and consultant fees she was paid as director of the Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger and Peace, and two other programs, prosecutors said. She was sentenced in June to 10 years in prison. She had faced a maximum sentence of 20 years.

But state District Judge Don Stricklin granted her request this week for "shock probation," meaning she will be released from prison after serving about 180 days and will be placed on supervised release.

"The good news is Ms. Atkins will be home for Christmas," said Sam Adamo, her lawyer. Her next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, according to court records.

Harris County Assistant District Attorney Donna Goode said the state opposed probation. She wants Stricklin to impose conditions of release that include restitution, community service and an apology to TSU administrators and students.

Prosecutors have said that from 2000 to 2002, Atkins stole about $76,000 from the Leland center, the university's anti-tobacco program and the Texas Legislative Intern Program.

They said she created fake requisitions and invoices for work that was not done.

Atkins admitted stealing about $38,000. Adamo blamed Atkins' gambling addiction for the thefts. She testified that she lost about $355,000, primarily at Harrah's casino in Lake Charles, La., between January 2001 and December 2002. A TSU audit uncovered Atkins' misappropriation of funds at the Leland Center. Other financial irregularities were found at two other programs she managed.

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