Few anger as jury pay illegal immigrant is fine after jewelry theft conviction

Sandra Mendez Ortega, 19, was sentenced for a crime, but a jury paid her $60 fine after a feeling of pity for her.

(Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office )

A Virginia woman was enraged after the girl, they hired stole $5,000 worth of jewelry from her home, and the judges chipped in to pay for the woman is fine after the conviction of her of theft.

Sandra Mendez Ortega, 19, who is in the country illegally, was convicted of the crime of grand larceny for the theft of three rings on Dec. 8 by a jury in Fairfax County court. Instead of a prison, the jury sentenced to a $60 fine.

A sympathetic jury for the teen, who is pregnant with her second child, and pulled together $80 to pay for the fine after they convicted her/

Jury foreman Jeffrey Memmott told The Washington Post the members of the jury felt sympathy for the woman who testified she dropped out of school after the sixth grade, had a child and was pregnant with another, but is not employed.

“The general feeling was she was the victim, too,” Memmott said. “Two of the women (jurors) were crying because of how bad they felt. One lady pulled out a $ 20 bill, and just about everyone chipped in.”

Memmott said he contacted the public defender and went to the former maid’s house to get her $80, more than enough to pay her $60 fine.


“Justice had to be done,” Janice Woolridge, a member of the jury told The Washington Post. “But there are also some compassion somewhere. Young people make bad decisions. We just couldn’t pile on more.”

However, Lisa Copeland, Mendez Ortega employer was not satisfied with the condemnation or their actions. She told the post that a $60 fine was insufficient for the crime committed and claimed Ortega told lie after lie.

“I was outraged,” Copeland said. “I was just stunned. I don’t think $60 equated to the crime.”

Copeland said she discovered the rings missing in Sept. 2016 and actually did not know that a third ring was gone, until they were returned. The rings were worth at least $ 5,000, they support.

Copeland called Fairfax City police who questioned the three cleaners – including Mendez Ortega – who have been cleansed Copeland’s house and they all denied wrongdoing.

However, after the interrogation of the 19-year-old reportedly felt guilty about the stealing, and told Copeland’s husband, Jeff, she had the rings and gave them back, The Washington Post reported. The police also had the young woman writing the Copeland is a letter of apology. Copeland said she has never seen the apology and the former maid never said sorry to her in person.

“Never saw,” Copeland said. “Never heard of it until the trial, during the sentencing.”


Mendez Ortega was arrested and spent eight days in jail, but posted $1,000 bond and was released. The jury was not told of the woman’s stint in prison and that they are in the country illegally, because “it is not relevant whether they stole the rings.”

Copeland said she felt the jury should have those facts.

“I think it is relevant to the matter,” Copeland said.

“It really irritates me that they came here and commit a crime,” Jeff Copeland told The Washington Post. “People come here, because there is a chance here. But when they come here and commit crimes, that is where you have to draw the line.”

Lisa Copeland said she was “surprised” the jury not wanting to convict Mendez Ortega, although she was known.

“The fact that she confessed,” she said, “and they didn’t want to condemn her? I do not understand. That is basically saying that it’s okay to steal.”

Mendez Ortega faces up to 20 years in prison and a $2,500 fine, but the jury only of her pay a fine would be equivalent to a day’s pay.

Speaking through an interpreter, she said that she was “happy” after her condemnation.

“I was happy when I heard that they wanted to give me (money.) Thank you to all of them, God bless them,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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