Amanda La Bell, the former candidate for House District 54 who left the 2018 campaign in disgrace, will serve time in jail for embezzling thousands of dollars from the Bend law office where she worked briefly as a business development manager.
La Bell, 43, must travel from her current home in Tennessee back to Deschutes County to serve the five-day sentence handed down to her Tuesday in Deschutes County Circuit Court.
She tearfully asked Judge Ray Crutchley for mercy in a brief statement she made by phone.
“I’m absolutely heartbroken by the situation,” she said.
The state had asked Crutchley to give La Bell 20 days in jail. Her attorney, Erick Ward, sought community service in lieu of incarceration, citing the hardships of flying across the country during a pandemic and finding child care for La Bell’s three children, two of whom have disabilities.
For pleading no contest to one count of computer crime, La Bell was also given two years probation and ordered to serve 250 hours of community service and repay Bend attorney Stephanie Marshall $5,000 in a compensatory fine, which she paid prior to the hearing, Ward said.
Marshall met La Bell in 2018 when they worked for Clifton Law in Bend. Marshall left the firm in May 2019 to start her own law office, Marshall Hicks Law, and hired La Bell as an office manager. Shortly afterward, La Bell moved to Tennessee to care for an ailing relative and was allowed to continue working remotely.
In October 2019, Marshall discovered numerous unauthorized purchases on the company credit card issued to La Bell.
After notifying Bend Police, she called La Bell and, with police listening in, La Bell confessed.
Marshall told The Bulletin her former office manager stole “substantially” more than the $13,00 she admitted to.
“I am happy to put this matter behind me,” Marshall wrote in an email.
La Bell made news in the runup to the 2018 general election. Democratic candidate Nathan Boddie was facing Republican Cheri Helt to represent Bend in the Oregon House of Representatives. A win for Boddie would have likely given Democrats an all-important supermajority.
When Boddie was hit with allegations of sexual harassment and using a homophobic slur, he refused to exit the race and Democrats looked for an alternative.
At the time, La Bell was the director of the nationwide diaper bank she founded, the Rebecca Foundation, and had returned to Bend. The Working Families Party recruited her to enter the race, and Democrats, including Gov. Kate Brown, threw their support behind her. But a slow drip of negative revelations about La Bell’s past undid her candidacy in a matter of weeks.
The Bulletin reported she lied about receiving a degree in the voter’s pamphlet, which is a felony though she wasn’t charged, and Willamette Week reported on La Bell’s legal and financial troubles before moving to Oregon.
La Bell claims she believed she was acting in accordance with the employee handbook at Marshall’s firm, which she said states employees must pay back personal purchases on company credit cards within 90 days, or else the amount owed would be deducted from the employee’s paycheck.
Ward said La Bell would have made the argument at trial but she could not afford to fight the charges. He called her financial position “dire, frankly.” She’s sold nearly all her possessions and has been unemployed for several months, with work prospects dim in Tennessee, Ward said.
“Ms. La Bell had no options but the no contest plea,” Ward said. “The travel right now is more than she can afford. The child care expenses and airfare make it impossible for her to resolve this any other way than a no contest plea.”