Dec. 2-EAU CLAIRE - An Eau Claire County judge has denied former Eau Claire County Treasurer Larry Lokken's attempt to seek an early release from his prison sentence through a geriatric petition.
In a written order filed last month, Judge Jon Theisen was critical of Lokken's actions and inactions since he was convicted in 2015 of stealing more than $625,000 from taxpayers between 2011 and 2013.
"The court finds that restitution is not paid and that the defendant has not made reasonable efforts to pay restitution," Theisen wrote in his order.
"The court finds that the defendant does not accept responsibility, and does not present as contrite, changed nor rehabilitated," the judge said.
"While the court acknowledges that the defendant may meet statutory age eligibility for the relief sought, the court notes that this factor - that defendant Lokken got older in prison - was well within the contemplation and intentions of the court at the time of sentencing," Theisen said.
"At sentencing, the court afforded defendant Lokken opportunity to liquidate assets and pay off, or pay down, restitution," the judge said. "Defendant Lokken has unreasonably declined this opportunity."
Lokken filed the petition in May. State law allows an inmate to seek a modified sentence through a geriatric petition if he is at least 65 years old and has served at least five years of his prison sentence.
Lokken, 74, was sentenced by Theisen in January 2016 to 9 1/2 years in prison and 11 years of extended supervision for his role in the theft. He is scheduled to be released from prison on June 13, 2025.
The state Department of Corrections' Program Review Committee ruled May 4 that "public interest would be served" by modifying Lokken's prison sentence.
The committee said Lokken's age, non-assaultive offenses, lack of other criminal history and anticipated supervised release conditions would reduce his risk to public safety.
The committee referred the petition to Theisen because he presided over Lokken's sentencing.
At an Aug. 12 hearing, Theisen directed Lokken to either apply for a court-appointed attorney or privately hire counsel to represent him before further hearings would be scheduled.
As of the middle of November, that had not been done and Lokken filed no further information in support of his motion for early release.
"As such, the court largely considers the defendant's motion to modify (his) sentence withdrawn or abandoned," Theisen said in his order.
In his petition, Lokken said he took responsibility for his crime.
In his order, Theisen noted that Lokken offered some support for his motion for early release:
-Lokken said he has held positions of trust, primarily as a bus driver.
-Lokken said he will not commit new crimes. He will live a retired life without access to the public's money.
-Lokken said he will not be a problem in Eau Claire. He intends to move to Florida.
"The court finds this information unpersuasive," Theisen wrote in his order.
Though the criminal cases were tied just to thefts prosecutors knew about at the time charges were filed, further investigation by the Eau Claire Police Department showed that Lokken, the county's elected treasurer for 37 years, and Kay Onarheim, his top assistant who worked in the treasurer's office for 34 years, stole a total of $1.39 million of taxpayers' money from 2001 through their retirements in 2013.
Lokken pleaded no contest in November 2015 to eight felonies - five counts of theft and three counts of misconduct in office - for his role in the embezzlement scandal that rocked the county. Onarheim pleaded guilty in October 2015 to the same eight charges.
The pair concealed the money they stole by changing figures in reports about delinquent tax payments - money the county didn't necessarily expect to receive, the police investigation revealed.
In March 2016, Theisen sentenced Onarheim to eight years in prison followed by nine years of extended supervision.