Jerry Gunstream suppressed a sob Monday, saying, I have disgraced my family and ruined my reputation.
But the 62-year-old Nampan, once positioned as a regional leader in commercial real estate, apparently would like to hold onto some shards of his former image.
I want you to know I really am a good man, Gunstream told 3rd District Judge Thomas Ryan shortly before being sentenced to at least two years and up to the maximum 14 in state prison for draining nearly $400,000 from two partnerships whose commercial properties he managed.
Since the investigation into his thefts from clients began about three years ago, Gunstream said that there hasnt been a day that I havent thought and cried and wondered how I could have done what I did.
Before his steep, quick descent in 2009, Gunstream was a local business leader, exuding confidence and success. A former Nampa city finance director, he married the Chamber of Commerce CEO (they divorced shortly after the theft allegations arose) and was a frequent fixture in local business news. His website described Gunstream Commercial Real Estate as one of the most dominant commercial real estate brokerage and management organizations throughout the entire Pacific Northwest.
But in reality, his business was foundering in a stalled economy, and he was stealing money from clients to keep up appearances and keep his business afloat. Some clients eventually went to the police, and Gunstreams career was over.
He disbanded his business, declared bankruptcy and fended off several civil suits while the criminal investigation continued. He was arrested on charges of grand theft in January.
He has remained in the Canyon County Jail ever since, in what his attorney described as self-punishment, because Gunstream could easily have met the $10,000 bond.
I wouldnt want anything (I say) to suggest that I am trying to make excuses for what Ive done, Gunstream said Monday.
A VICTIM COMMENTS
In letters to clients and colleagues that became part of the case, Gunstream admitted stealing nearly $600,000 from clients management accounts. He called it unauthorized borrowing and said he intended to pay it back. He still vows to make restitution.
Gunstream ultimately was charged in connection with about $386,000 he drew from two clients, Holly Plaza and Airport Partners. The lions share, more than $333,000, came from the Holly Plaza partnership.
Most likely were never going to see any money out of this, Holly Plaza partner Tom Schuveiller told the Statesman after the hearing. But if this will deter others from doing things like this, then I guess thats the best we can do.
Schuveiller and his wife submitted victim-impact statements to the judge, but no victims spoke in court at the sentencing hearing.
None of Gunstreams supporters spoke either, although his children, mother, brother and ex-wife filled a row in silent support.
At least one family member wept when Judge Ryan said prison, not probation or a withheld judgment, was the appropriate punishment. They declined comment when the hearing was over.
Character references and support letters for Gunstream were submitted to the court but not made public.
Special Prosecutor Jonathan Medema acknowledged the outpouring and noted that Gunstreams victims thought highly of him, too, before the stealing. He said supporters view Gunstream as an honest person who apparently just chose to lie to all of his customers for three years.
ALMOST BIBLICAL PRIDE
Defense attorney Alan Coffel said Gunstreams motivation was not greed, but an almost biblical pride.
Mr. Gunstream is here before this court facing jail time because he couldnt face the ruination of his business, he said.
Coffel suggested that giving Gunstream probation and allowing him to work would be the best way to gain restitution for his victims and noted that Gunstream has already served nearly five months in the county jail.
But Medema stressed that Gunstream lied to and stole large sums of money from people who hired him and trusted him people who counted on that money for their expenses and retirement funds. But he decided to use the money as his own, Medema said.
Setting Gunstream free after four-plus months in lockup would be the type of sentence someone who shoplifts at Walmart would get, the prosecutor said.
This is a very sad day, Judge Ryan said before he handed down the sentence. The downfall of a prominent community member and the devastating impact on his family are sad, he said.
But its not nearly as sad as innocent people who lose significant amounts of money who cant afford to lose that money, Ryan told Gunstream. Its now your debt to society.
Kristin Rodine: 377-6447