Tahoe woman sentenced today for cutting Forest Service trees

RENO " The lawyer for a woman who admits hiring a company to illegally chop down trees on national forest land at Lake Tahoe is urging a judge to spare her prison time partly because she's been embarrassed and humiliated by the publicity.

Patricia Vincent, 57, Incline Village, was scheduled to be sentenced in U.S. District Court in Reno Wednesday afternoon under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that orders her to pay $100,000 restitution and do 80 hours of community service, said Scott Freeman, her Reno lawyer.

Vincent, who has no previous criminal history, had the three trees removed last April to improve her view of the lake. She has "suffered emotionally from the negative publicity and has no further plans to stay in the Lake Tahoe area," Freeman said in court documents filed on Monday.

Vincent was indicted in January by a federal grand jury in Reno on felony charges of theft of government property and willingly damaging government property. She faced up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of those original counts if convicted.

But in exchange for her guilty plea last month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Rachow agreed to drop the felony charges and charge her with one misdemeanor count of unlawfully cutting trees on U.S. land.

That crime carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, a $100,00 fine and possible restitution. But Rachow said under the plea agreement, she would face a year of probation, 80 hours of community service and pay $100,000 in restitution " with $35,000 going to the U.S. Forest Service and $65,000 going to the National Forest Foundation.

Freeman acknowledged in court documents the sentencing was "unusual" because "the defendant is not a typical criminal violator." He said she already has completed 87.5 hours of community service and already paid the $100,000 restitution.

"Ms. Vincent admits responsibility, does not make excuses for her actions," Freeman wrote in urging the judge to accept terms of the plea deal.

"As well, take into consideration the embarrassment and humiliation she has suffered by way of this case. Sometimes, that type of personal exposure in the court of public opinion works as an incredible deterrent from future negative conduct."

Freeman said the U.S. Probation Office agrees the deal is "adequate to address the seriousness of the crime, promote respect for the law and afford deterrence to the defendant and others who might be tempted in the future to engage in similar conduct."

Vincent originally pleaded not guilty to the charges but later admitted she hired a tree-cutting company to fell the three 80- to 100-year-old Ponderosa pines on Forest Service land next to her property. Her sentencing was scheduled for 4 p.m. before U.S. District Court Judge Brian Sandoval.

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