BRATTLEBORO -- Dale Felion was recently sentenced to seven to eight days of work crew after pleading guilty to submitting fraudulent community service letters to his probation officer more than six years ago.
"We had to go back and see if these people existed and if they wrote letters on his behalf," said Springfield Department of Corrections Probation and Parole Programs Supervisor Joe Sampsell. "It turned out there were letters from people who were not actual people and hours that were not performed."
Felion had been convicted of involuntary manslaughter after crashing into a tractor-trailer in August 1998. He had been driving with Dana Pratt, who was 12 years old and his son, who was 2 years old. At the time, Felion’s mother was married to Pratt’s grandfather.
Felion’s friend, Robert Kirker was driving behind him and they had been drag racing on Route 142, when Felion crashed into a truck driven by Arnold Williams.
Pratt died in the crash and Felion’s son was hurt.
Felion was acquitted of manslaughter, but was sentenced to three months in prison for grossly negligent operation. After serving his sentence, Felion was put on probation.
Since Felion’s trial, Pratt’s father, Kevin Mills has been to every hearing, which included some violations of Felion’s probation. Mills was at Felion’s latest hearing on March 12, related to the fraudulent community service letters.
Mills told the Reformer that due to the letters in question being from so long ago, Felion had waived the limits of statute in court.
"Since Dale waived, they were able to bring this charge back," said Mills. "He owned what he did. He admitted to the judge and court that he did falsify (the documents). Back when the accident happened, he had trouble taking ownership. In the last year and half, he has made a lot more progress as far as growing up and admitting when he’s wrong and owning it."
The community service work was reportedly performed by Felion with the family of his ex-wife, Jenny Felion, in Ohio.
The first letter that officers questioned had been submitted on June 2, 2006. It was signed by Becky Schooner.
"The letter indicated that Mr. Felion spoke with her stepdaughter, Jessica Schooner," stated the report by Sampsell. "When I asked about the letter, Mr. Felion claimed that he had spoken with both Becky Schooner and her daughter ‘Becka.’ Mr. Felion could not even recall the actual name of (the) stepdaughter. I explained to Mr. Felion that I had communicated directly with the supposed author of the letter that was submitted by him and she verified that Mr. Felion never met her daughter. Mr. Felion was adamant that he met her stepdaughter. She further stated that she always signs her letters as Rebecca L. White-Schooner now, but prior to 2008, she would have signed it using her maiden name Rebecca L. White. She also said her stepdaughter, Jessica Schooner, was not living with them during the time of the letter and she stopped coming to the home in 2004."
White-Schooner said she never submitted any letter regarding Dale Felion and his community service, according to Sampsell’s report. Felion had received a travel permit issued for June 22, 2007, with the travel dates from July 26 to July 31, 2007. The "supposed letter of June 2, 2006 clearly predates this travel," the report said.
The second later in question was submitted on June 2, 2006. It was signed by Ryan Steinheart.
"I also explained there is no family member that is named Ryan Steinheart. That Ryan referred to in the letter actually has a last name of ‘Baker.’ I also explained that there is a Joe Kaiser, but he is not the child’s father, but rather a brother-in-law of the child’s mother," Sampsell wrote.
The last later was dated June 5, 2006, signed by Kathy Stevner.
"The letter indicated that Mr. Felion spoke with Brittany, who is a newly licensed driver. I advised Mr. Felion that I had spoke with Brittany’s mother, Donna Baker and she said there is no such family member named Kathy Stevner. Donna Baker did state that she does have a sister named Kathy Kaiser. Donna Baker further reported that Dale Felion never met or spoke to her two children," Sampsell’s report said.
Baker said that Felion had never met or spoken with either of her two children.
Felion said he understood why this letter was questioned, but maintained that the letters were accurate and he did speak with Ryan and Brittany Stineheart.
The probation officer contacted the two, and both said they did not know anyone by the name of Dale Felion and had not spoken to him or met him.
When Felion asked if he could make up the hours in question, it was explained to him that it was a violation of his probation to submit fraudulent documents.
He said the three letters had been submitted by his ex-wife.
"This claim was refuted by PPO Joey Holmes, who said that the only document submitted by Jenny Felion was the log of community service hours for presentations done at the Bennington School. Jenny Felion further denied submitting any of the above letters for her ex-husband," Sampsell wrote.
"It’s a very rare occurrence that someone would submit hours that were not performed," Sampsell told the Reformer.
Mills said that after these last 10 days of work crew, Felion has a chance to move on with his life. He was no longer on probation after March 12.
"We definitely have an open line of communication now," Mills said. "Hopefully, now if he finds himself in a jam, he’ll call me."
Mills also mentioned that he had become a better parent since his son died. He has two daughters, Cequoyah and Jade.
"I don’t want to miss anything with them," he said. "So many times, parents take that for granted. I go to all the (ballet recitals, piano recitals, dances, etc.) Dana is still teaching me things to this day about what kind of dad I want to be."
Mills was able to get the judge to make a condition on his behalf when Felion originally began probation. He wanted Felion to make a check out to him every week for $1 until he got off probation.
"The $1 a week was more of a symbolic thing to remind him what happened. The judge thought it was a great idea and made it part of his criminal sentence. It was unorthodox at the time, I guess you could say."
Felion had other difficulties during his time on probation for this.
On Jan. 23, 2012, Felion had left the state without permission from his probation officer. He was then ordered to serve 60 days on a correctional work crew. New risk related conditions were added to his probation.
On April 19, 2012, Felion’s special conditions were "again modified to include a condition." He had to wear electronic monitoring, which included a GPS.
Mills said it has been a goal of his to help Felion be successful and stay out of trouble.
"I think he’s mature enough now to make the right choices and I’m hopeful that he’s successful in the future," he said. "That’s my goal. And my goal is to not go to court anymore. But I did it for Dana. All those times."
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.