Rhones Not Off Hook

By Lynda Jones
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The Houston County Courier recently asked Houston County District Attorney Donna Kaspar for an update on the pending theft cases against Cynthia Jeannine Rhone and her husband, Jerry Rhone, that could be shared with the public.

To recap, one year ago, on July 18, 2014, the Polk County Publishing Company (PCPC), owner of the Houston County Courier, took evidence to the Houston County District Attorney's Office pertaining to allegations that former general manager of the Houston County Courier, Cynthia Jeannine Rhone, embezzled a large amount of money over time from the company.

A Houston County Grand Jury, on Sept. 30, 2014, indicted Cynthia Jeannine Rhone and her husband, Jerry Rhone, also a former employee, on charges alleging Theft, Fraudulent Use of Identifying Information and Forgery.

The indictment against Cynthia Jeannine Rhone alleged theft of more than $200,000. The indictment against Jerry Rhone alleged theft of an amount of less than $200,000 but more than $100,000, and the charge was enhanced as an alleged crime against an elderly person. Those theft charges are first degree felony offenses.

Since that time, due to an error in the original filing of the indictment, rumors have circulated that the cases against the Rhones were dismissed.

"Often I get questions from people in the community about why I handled a case in a particular way or why certain things happened in the court system with a given case. Often enough the questions stem from completely inaccurate information," Kaspar said.

"I was asked the other day why the theft case against Mr. and Mrs. Rhone was dismissed. The truth is that those cases haven't been dismissed," she said. "I made an announcement in court that I was re-indicting those cases, which means I will seek a new indictment to correct a mistake in the first one and the cases will continue through the system as usual," Kaspar explained.

Furthermore, Kaspar is taking steps to make the case stronger.

"I did decide that while I was working on the new indictment I would also send the case information to a new organization that the District Attorney's Office has recently become a member of called ROCIC. They are the Regional Organized Crime Information Center," Kaspar continued.

"ROCIC offers secure information sharing and communications capabilities, critical analytical and investigative support services to prepare and enhance the presentation of a criminal case," she explained.

"I believe that this organization will help us better present cases, such as the theft case involving the Rhones, that involve voluminous financial records and multiple criminal events that are all a part of one criminal episode," Kaspar said further.

"So, ultimately, the answer to the question of why I did something in a case is always the same, 'I did it to make my case better and to do my job better so that the victims in our community will see justice done'," Kaspar asserted.

In response to rumors that PCPC no longer wants the cases prosecuted, PCPC Operations Director Kelli Barnes reiterated the statement she made in October 2014 when the original indictment was made public, "Our company intends to see this through and demand justice."

Barnes said further that she is encouraged that Kaspar is engaging the services of ROCIC, and feels confident that justice ultimately will prevail.

"It just takes time to get through the judicial system," she added.