By Bridget Doyle and Annie Sweeney
5:46 PM CST, January 18, 2013
A former Tribune Co. executive who had defied orders to appear in court to face federal fraud charges was ordered taken into custody as a flight risk after she finally surrendered to authorities earlier Friday.
Stephanie Pater was visibly shaking and tearful as she apologized in U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan’s courtroom for disrespecting the court, the government and federal marshals.
“I’ve been scared, but I’m here now and will be here through the rest of the process,” she said.
But Der-Yeghiayan wasn’t taking any further chances after Pater failed to show for her arraignment on three separate occasions this month. He had issued two warrants for her arrest less than a week apart.
“The laws of the U.S. and the rules apply equally to people of all walks of life, regardless of status in society,” the judge told Pater, who has worked for nearly two decades in commercial real estate. “This may come as a shock to Ms. Pater that those laws apply to her.”
The judge left a glimmer of hope for Pater, though, saying she could be released from custody if she posted $200,000 worth of property to secure a bond and surrendered her passport.
But Pater’s attorney, Adam Merrill, told the judge she doesn’t own property but would check with her parents to see if they would post their South Carolina residence for the bond.
Pater is accused of defrauding the Tribune Company, which owns the Chicago Tribune, of more than $200,000.
Pater was believed to be in the New York area before her surrender in Chicago today, accompanied by her attorney, at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.
The surrender was negotiated late Thursday afternoon when the U.S. Marshals Service called her attorney and told him to pass along a very direct message: Turn herself in by 9 a.m. Friday or she would be arrested and possibly detained for weeks waiting for an airlift back to Chicago.
"We explained how the process would work and that she was looking at potentially a substantial amount of time to be held in custody and then transferred via the prisoner airlift," said John O'Malley, chief deputy for the U.S. Marshals Service in Chicago. "Based on the fact she has no criminal history, she was afforded this one opportunity. Had she not showed up, we would have made every effort to arrest her. All bets would have been off."
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