The trio will serve the 60 days in the Cherokee County jail at a time they arrange during the first year of their sentence for lying to police, falsely accusing Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo of trying to run them over after a school board meeting last year.
In another bizarre twist in Marlow’s brief and controversial time in county politics, it was announced in court that she may be married to Trim, long suspected of being her significant other, in the next week.
That announcement came after Superior Court Judge Ellen McElyea read the terms she’d decided on for Marlow, Trim and Knowles’s sentences, including that the trio could have no contact with each other. Marlow’s attorney, Brian Steel, asked the judge to reconsider that condition, quietly explaining the reason to McElyea at the bench, where she seemed surprised by the request.
Steel then said before the packed courtroom, full of Marlow, Trim and Knowles’ supporters and detractors, that Marlow and Trim had been engaged since December. The attorney said the couple had found love and shouldn’t be kept apart.
McElyea said it is common for people who commit crimes together to not be allowed to have contact. But if they are married, probation officers sometimes will let them be together. The judge agreed to suspend the condition for a week to give Marlow and Trim time to be married, if they choose.
Marlow and Trim, as well as Knowles, will see many other changes after the sentencing.
The trio will not be allowed to come within 500 feet of Petruzielo or have any contact with him. They will also be barred from contact with any other witness in the case and not be allowed to go to school board meetings. They won’t be able to be involved in local politics or do work on campaigns, meaning that Trim’s long career as a political adviser is over for at least a decade, according to terms of the sentencing.
And as felons, the highly political trio also won’t be allowed to vote.
McElyea told the convicted trio of how they had victimized not only Petruzielo, who they have often criticized, but also law enforcement and the judicial system by their false accusations. The judge added Marlow’s cause of education reform had been tarnished by her actions.
“You have let down your supporters,” she said.
Petruzielo issued a statement after the sentence was handed down.
“Justice was served today,” he said. “Their sentencing is no cause for celebration and should not be for our community; but this action, coupled with Ms. Marlow’s resignation, provides some sense of closure for us. I look forward to the students of School Board District 1 receiving new representation on the School Board, and the School Board returning to the civil and productive atmosphere for which it formerly was known.”
Marlow, Trim and Knowles showed little emotion as the verdict was handed down and left court without comment.
Prior to the sentencing, friends and family of the convicted came to beg for mercy and implore the judge against giving jail time. Each of the felony counts Marlow, Trim and Knowles were convicted of carried a maximum punishment of five years in prison. Marlow and Trim were convicted of two counts each, and Knowles was convicted of three counts, with an added misdemeanor charge for making the original 911 call to make the false report.
Marlow’s brother, Tom Salata, told the judge his family had been through a trying time since she was arrested in July 2013. He said Marlow was a loving mother of twin 11-year-olds, who needed their mom.
“Kelly Marlow’s political career is over,” Salata said on the stand. “Jail time is not needed for this community to heal.”
Knowles’ friend from church, Aileen Skinner, said Knowles was a caring friend and mother of four daughters, who she’d always known to be honest.
“(This) doesn’t line up with the person I know. I know her to be incredibly honest,” Skinner told the court. “She is wrecked by this.”
Trim’s friend, Dean Sheridan, who is also active in Cherokee County politics, testified that Trim was “honest and forthright,” and a “caring, sharing human being.”
Sheridan said times have been difficult for Trim since he was arrested, causing his political advising career to suffer.
“I would consider that a severe punishment,” Sheridan said, asking the judge to keep Trim from jail, so he could be there for his children.
While friends and family members gushed about the defendants, the prosecutor in the case, Rachelle Carnesale, said it was nice to hear about who Marlow, Trim and Knowles were.
“But this case has never been about who they are — it’s about what they did,” Carnesale, the chief assistant district attorney, told the judge. “They lied. They lied to demolish a political foe.”
Carnesale recommended roughly the sentence McElyea handed down.
The attorneys for the trio, though, spoke of their general good qualities — how they weren’t dangerous to society — and asked for first offender sentencing, without jail time.
Marlow’s attorney, Brian Steel, said the public attention the former school board member has endured was punishment enough.
“Ms. Marlow is now infamous,” Steel told the judge. “That does punish her. It punishes her children. She is paralyzed as she sits before the court. That is punishment.”
Michael Duponte, Trim’s attorney, told McElyea of all the good Trim had done while pushing for legislation to improve the state of Georgia, citing his work to establish the city of Sandy Springs, among other projects.
“He’s worked 15 years to help government improve,” Duponte said. “He has no criminal history … He’s never been convicted of anything serious.”
Trim has been in trouble, though he wasn’t convicted. In 2002, Trim and a consulting partner were arrested on illegal campaigning charges after fliers attacking one of their clients appeared at polling sites just before a special election.
Trim and his partner weren’t prosecuted, but instead cut a deal to produce a pamphlet on proper placement of campaign literature, made available to the local Republican and Democratic parties. Neither Trim nor his partner admitted any wrongdoing.
Knowles’ attorney, Anthony Morgese, said the trio weren’t bad people.
“They got caught up in their passion,” he said.