No theft is tolerable, but stealing from a nonprofit that provides funding for day care, therapy and education for children and adults living with disabilities is particularly egregious.

Also intolerable is the weak punishment recently prescribed by a Lake County judge for a man convicted of this type of theft.

Four years of probation and more than $12,000 in restitution is a paltry sentence at best for John Kmetz, 80, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to stealing funds while serving as treasurer for the Hunky Hollow Athletic Club and related Hobart-based Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Indiana organizations.

The nonprofit disability services groups have reported Kmetz stole tens of thousands of dollars while entrusted with their finances.

An insurance payment to the Center for Possibilities, the facility operated by Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Indiana, as a result of the theft totaled $60,000, according to statements in court.

Kmetz should have been looking at four years in prison, not the slap on the wrist he received.

Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez appeared to talk tough during the sentencing hearing last week, warning Kmetz he could be sent to prison for four years if he fails to make restitution payments. Vasquez used the words "horrible" and "pathetic" to describe Kmetz's actions.

But it's really not a hard line at all.

Kmetz is being forced to repay a fraction of what he is alleged to have stolen, and he'll see no time behind bars.

It's incumbent upon our court system to send strong messages against such cases of greed and moral depravity.

Hard lines and harsh sentences can serve as deterrents to those who would consider committing such crimes in the future.

In the case of Kmetz, the sentence prescribed tells would-be thieves that it's possible to steal, admit guilt and get away with a large chunk of cash and face no prison time.

The sentence itself is "horrible" and "pathetic."


Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editorial Page Editor Marc Chase, Editor Bob Heisse, Politics/History Editor Doug Ross and Managing Editor Erin Orr.