By Brian Gilliland, Associate Editor
(July 26, 2018) The bizarre saga of erstwhile Berlin Butcher Shop owner, Berlin council member and mayoral candidate Lisa Hall took another turn this week in Circuit Court in Snow Hill, as she was sentenced to two consecutive 18-month terms at the Worcester County Jail, followed by two consecutive three-year terms of active probation.
In May, Hall made Alford pleas to two of the 11 felony and misdemeanor charges she faced, felony theft $1,000-$10,000 in value and felony fraud for passing bad checks between $1,000-$10,000 in value.
An Alford plea is a guilty plea wherein the defendant doesn’t admit guilt, but admits the government has enough evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt.
Prosecutor Lauren Bourdon said the sentencing guidelines for someone like Hall, who had both a criminal record based on similar charges, a history of violating probation and a poor driving record, ranged between one and three years per charge. Bourdon sought three years per charge according to the guidelines, which provide for a maximum penalty of five years on each charge.
Judge Newton Jackson sentenced her to five years per charge, but suspended all but 18 months for each infraction.
Hall’s lawyer, Melvin Caldwell from Salisbury, had told the court during her trial that her legal troubles began after a series of family tragedies, starting with the loss of her husband Bill in March 2016. He said that started a tailspin of behavior reinforced by subsequent losses and family concerns that resulted in the claims against her.
Caldwell said the loss of Hall’s husband, followed by the loss of her stepson’s wife resulting in Hall assuming temporary custody of the couple’s four children, followed by the death of her mother months later, along with other family troubles combined with the floundering of the butcher shop, led to her making regrettable decisions to keep her family afloat.
Hall retains custody of one of her step-grandchildren. Other family members have assumed responsibility for the other children.
Hall, according to prosecutors, was under investigation following an August 2017 report that someone had left the premises of the Acme grocery store in Ocean City with thousands of dollars worth of meat that had not been paid for.
The investigation later found that it had been repeated at least four times at the local store alone.
It was learned later that Hall was the focus of the investigation and the charges made against her by one of her suppliers surfaced.
Bourdon said Hall had a system all worked out where she would order the meat, return to the front of the store to pay for a packet of cigarettes, and then would leave the store with both the cigarettes and meat. The meat was then used as inventory at her Berlin Butcher Shop, which marketed its products as organic or otherwise specialty items.
This process was put into place after Hall’s relationship with her regular supplier soured because of nonpayment. The supplier was one of the entities charging Hall with passing bad checks.
She was charged in December 2017 and convicted in May 2018.
Hall will serve her time at the Worcester County Jail rather than the Department of Corrections because her sentence is for two separate cases, Judge Jackson confirmed during the proceedings.
She is eligible for work release.