The two teenage children of a former Boise police officer and his wife might have lost their parents to simultaneous jail sentences Friday if a judge hadn’t had compassion for them.
“Allowing you and your wife to serve sentences separately is in the best interest of the children,” 4th District Court Judge Nancy Baskin told Mark Furniss, 47, found guilty by a jury of misappropriating funds from a group that raises money for police officers hurt in the line of duty.
Earlier, he watched his wife, Sara Furniss, 41, get handcuffed and led out of the courtroom to serve nine months at the Ada County Jail. He’ll care for the children until Sara is released, and then he’ll serve eight months at the county jail.
In total, the Furnisses were accused of taking for personal use more than $70,000 from the Treasure Valley Lodge #11 Fraternal Order of Police during a five-year period, starting in 2011. At the time, Mark was the president of the group and Sara was the part-time secretary/office manager.
A forensic audit performed by an outside accountant found Mark responsible for $11,134 in FOP losses and Sara responsible for $62,730 in losses, according to court records. The couple used the money on both luxury and household items, including vacation trips, a trailer, a gazebo and beer.
Sara Furniss, who pleaded guilty to the charges against her, offered a tearful apology about making poor choices.
“I’m very sorry for what I did,” she said.
Mark Furniss, who has maintained that he committed no crimes, thanked the judge and wished the FOP well.
There were 20 to 25 people in the courtroom for the back-to-back sentencings, which lasted about three hours.
The embezzlement damaged the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police financially and created deep feelings of betrayal among officers. The Furnisses stole from “the very people who would take a bullet for them,” said Cory Stambaugh, one of the founders of the group.
The group lost members and former donors, and it’s still working to rebuild trust in the community, current FOP President Joe Andreoli said.
Much of the money the group raised after the theft came to light last fall has gone to aid Cpl. Kevin Holtry and Cpl. Chris Davis, both shot by fugitive Marco Romero last November. Holtry, who was paralyzed and lost a leg, sat next to Andreoli in court Friday.
Sara Furniss’s hearing was first. Her attorney, Michael Bartlett, said she’s a good person who made “tragically bad choices,” at first rationalizing the theft as “borrowing.”
Baskin imposed a 14-year prison sentence, with two years fixed and 12 indeterminate. She suspended that, then imposed 14 years of probation.
She ordered Sara to serve 360 days in the Ada County Jail, but then suspended 90 days.
“You need to get a job, and you need to pay back the people you stole from,” Baskin said, after noting that she wouldn’t impose community service because she wanted her to stay focused on paying restitution.
She also imposed a $2,000 fine.
“Every time you make a payment on that fine, I want you to remember what got you in trouble,” she said.
Baskin denied Sara Furniss’ request for a withheld judgment — which would have allowed her to petition the court to dismiss the conviction following successful completion of probation — because the theft was committed repeatedly and was not a one-time incident.
Baskin also did not grant Mark Furniss a withheld judgment.
Canyon County Special Prosecutor Ellie Somoza said Mark stabbed his fellow officers in the back and betrayed them “over and over and over again,” and then minimized and rationalized his actions.
“A message needs to be sent to this community that officers are not above the law,” said Samoza, who asked that Furniss be sentenced to two years in prison before he was eligible for parole. “They need to be held to the same standards.”
Baskin called stealing from a nonprofit “unconscionable.” She imposed a 12-year sentence for Mark, with two fixed and 10 indeterminate. She suspended that and imposed probation, and then ordered him to serve 360 days in jail, with 120 days suspended. His probation officer can impose 60 discretionary days if Mark slips up.
He also was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, but half of that was suspended.
“I want you to understand that I have considered your lengthy service on behalf of protecting our community,” Baskin said. She said she didn’t believe the crime should define the rest of his life.
Mark Furniss worked in law enforcement in the Treasure Valley for more than two decades, first as an Ada County jail deputy and then as a Garden City police officer. He joined the Boise Police Department in 2008. He taught at the Idaho POST academy, defense attorney Chuck Peterson said.
The Furnisses have relocated to Washington state. Mark Furniss has applied for 76 jobs since he left the Boise Police Department, and he’s been working delivering flowers and doing odd jobs, Peterson said.
Both of the Furnisses will have to notify future employers in writing about their felony grand theft convictions, Baskin said.
The Furnisses filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy last October. Their bankruptcy filing showed that the couple was $384,000 in debt. They listed the police union as one of their creditors on the bankruptcy filing, reporting it as “alleged embezzlement.”