Embezzlement Restitution Dropped

4-11-06 - A former Bryan County foreman for District 3 will not have to pay back $20,000 in restitution. Following an emotional meeting Tuesday in Durant, commissioners rescinded the order. The move comes after District 3 commissioner John Spence took his own life last month.

Back in February, former district three commissioner John Spence and foreman Rick Laymon were asked to resign and pay restitution or face 14 counts of embezzlement charges. Spence committed suicide by hanging a few weeks later.

Today, around 60 people packed in the commissioners office, including Spence's widow and the wife of Rick Laymon. Wearing blue ribbons in supports of both men, witnesses told commissioners that neither man ever intended to do anything illegal. They blame overzealous prosecutors for pushing the charges and forcing the resignations of both men.

The embezzlement centered around county gravel and equipment that was used on what prosecutors deemed as private roads. Supporters of both men say it was a practice that was common and hardly criminal.

After the commissioners heard from witnesses today, they decided to drop the restitution completely. Those who testified say it was a bittersweet victory, considering today's decision would likely not have happened if it wasn't for John Spence's suicide.