Former Rockingham Police Chief Robert Voorhees pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of larceny on Monday in Richmond County Superior Court.
Voorhees, 43, was fined $100, had a 45-day stay in jail suspended, ordered to 12 months of unsupervised probation and was required to surrender his law enforcement license. Judge Mark Klass also ordered Voorhees, originally charged with a single felony count of embezzling $33,000 of city money, to pay court costs of $584.50.
Voorhees resigned as chief — a position he held for nearly 10 years — in February 2012. He had served in the department for 21 years. Shortly after Voorhees resigned, City Manager Monty Crump discovered some irregularities with a city-managed bank account that held seized funds. Voorhees was sole custodian of that account.
Voorhees was indicted in November 2012. Under the single felony count, Voorhees faced a maximum of 25 months in jail. It was noted, however, that Voorhees had repaid all of the $33,000. Under the plea agreement, Voorhees remains eligible for his city pension.
Rockingham resident Robert Stogner, 56, was in the courtroom during the proceeding. Stognar acknowledged he had his own legal problems but was surprised at what appeared to be a light sentence for Voorhees. Stognar likened it to a slap on the wrist.
The court acknowledged how charitable Voorhees had been over the years, Stognar said.
“Well, you can be real charitable when you’re stealing it,” he said.
In a phone interview with The Daily Journal late Wednesday, however, Voorhees hinted that there is more to the story than what the public knows, but that he had no intention of elaborating anytime soon.
“I have not spoken out,” during the past 20 months, Voorhees said. “I have not said a word. I have let the state and city completely control the narrative. I do not want to get in a back-and-forth with anyone. It was my original plan to defend myself vigorously. The fact that I was not guilty … but sitting down, talking to my attorneys, reviewing all the facts and ultimately, when you hold the position of being a department head, everything comes to your desk.”
Voorhees said the sticking point in the negotiations during efforts to reach a plea agreement was the surrending of his law enforcement license. It was a tool he had planned to use again. However, he now is in the beginning of a new career — he did not indicate what he is doing now for a living but noted it included “a lot of traveling.”
“I felt like it was in the best interests of my family … to put this matter behind me and move forward,” Voorhees said.
Voorhees cited health issues, both his own and of family members, as reasons to step away from the situation and let this part of his life fade into the past.
“I spent over 20 years in the public eye,” he said. “I think I’m going to enjoy spending the next couple decades out of the public eye.”
He insisted he had “no criminal intent” in any actions taken during his time as police chief but if the state attorney general “contended mistakes were made, then, ultimately, I needed to bear responsibility.”
Voorhees said he is “very proud” of his service with the Rockingham Police Department and appreciated the support of those who stuck by him.
“On a personal level, it just meant a lot.”