Former justice court clerk expresses remorse during sentencing

Ms. Stulsky leaving court last year. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)
Ms. Stulsky leaving court last year. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

As several family members wept in the courtroom, Christine Stulsky of New Suffolk was sentenced Wednesday to six months in jail, followed by five years’ probation, for stealing more than $200,000 in bail funds from the Southold Town Justice Court.

A former court clerk, Ms. Stulsky, 65, pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny and is required to repay the money she stole. She made a lump sum payment of $50,000 in January and another $50,000 is due by Sept. 30, according to county court Judge John Collins, who handed down the sentence.

The balance will be paid in equal monthly installments after she is released from jail, he said.

“It was never my intent to hurt anybody,” Ms. Stulsky told the judge. “I intend to pay everybody back.”

“The court is impressed, as is the probation department, that you are truly remorseful,” Judge Collins said. “I’m not sure when that remorse set in, but I do believe it is genuine. However, a public trust was violated and for that, there must be consequences.”

Ms. Stulsky’s attorney, John Strode, thanked the judge and assistant district attorney Melisa Bliss for taking into consideration “significant mitigating circumstances” in imposing a plea deal in her sentencing.

She had initially faced up to 15 years in prison but avoided the maximum sentence through the plea, which also requires her to make full restitution.

Outside court, Mr. Strode declined to identify the “mitigating circumstances” he spoke of in court, saying they were confidential.

Asked if they were health-related, he said, “That’s part of it.”

Judge Collins said he was aware that Ms. Stulsky had some “medical concerns.”

Ms. Stulsky, who had worked for the town for more than 30 years when she was arrested in March 2014, began stealing funds from the court in January 2009 and eventually took a total of $231,791, according to prosecutors.

Ms. Stulsky’s relatives declined comment following the sentencing.

In a written statement to the court, Southold Town Justice Court employees sharply criticized Ms. Stulsky’s “selfish act.”

“The amount of money stolen by Ms. Stulsky shocks the conscience,” the unnamed employees wrote. “We all struggle to pay our bills. That does not give us the right to take what is not ours.”

The staff also claims in the letter Ms. Stulsky created a “hostile work environment” while still an employee, allegedly abusing coworkers with “bullying and personal insults.” The letter also alleges that Ms. Stulsky didn’t allow the court to implement new ideas or procedures.

“We can only surmise that this was because she didn’t want her stealing to be detected,” the employees wrote. “And it wasn’t for so many years.”

Ms. Stulsky, the court staff say, damaged all of their reputations.

“Southold is a small town with a very long memory,” the staff wrote. “Unfortunately, the morals and ethics of this Justice Court will be questioned for years to come, through no fault of our own.”

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