Former Warren County Assessor Wendy Nordwald Kozma was allowed to remain on probation and ordered to pay restitution rather than be returned to jail, a Missouri judge ruled.
Editor's note: This story was updated at 4:05 p.m. to include a statement from Kozma's attorney and to include the order from the judge as to how much Kozma must pay each month.
Former Warren County Assessor Wendy (Nordwald) Kozma was ordered to remain on probation and continue making restitution payments rather than be returned to jail to serve a 10-year-sentence.
The decision was announced Oct. 6 by Osage County Judge Sonya Brandt.
"Ms. Kozma being in prison doesn't do the victims any good," Brandt said.
Brandt then ordered Kozma to make monthly payments of $1,200 toward her restitution.
Kozma pleaded guilty to 15 charges of stealing in 2022. As part of that plea, she was ordered to serve four months of a 10-year prison sentence and also to pay $213,832.14 in restitution.
Kozma still owes $211,863.22 in restitution as of Oct. 6. She has paid just $1,968.82 of her required total.
During a September hearing, Warren County Prosecuting Attorney Kelly King said Kozma would have needed to pay $3,563.87 a month in order to make the full restitution payment by the end of her probation.
The $1,200 required monthly payment is roughly a third of what Kozma initially needed to pay in order for the restitution to be repaid by the end of her probation. It will take more than 14 years for Kozma to repay the full amount of the restitution if she is only able to pay the required amount.
Brandt also ordered that any backpay Kozma receives if she is granted a Social Security disability claim is to be put toward the restitution.
Kozma said during the Sept. 15 hearing she had applied for disability in August because of health conditions that prevented her from working.
"I'm going to give her another shot to make this work," Brandt said.
Brandt had initially ordered Kozma to pay $100 a month in restitution, believing the state had agreed to that number. King told the judge after the announcement that the state had never agreed to a $100 payment.
Brandt then agreed to review how much Kozma should be ordered to pay. That announcement was made later Friday afternoon after the hearing had concluded.
"We are grateful for the Court's decision to continue Ms. Kozma's probation, and this is the result we expected," Kozma's attorney, former St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Lohmar said in a statement sent via email.
King asked for the judge to add an additional year to her probation. Currently, Kozma has less than five years remaining on her initial probation.
Brandt denied the request, saying she expected it to take longer than five years for Kozma to make the full restitution payment and that she expected her probation would have to be extended in the future.
The hearing was scheduled to begin at 8:45, but technical difficulties delayed the start. Brandt appeared in the courtroom via WebEx.
Prior to the hearing, Kozma sat calmly outside the courtroom reviewing some papers as she waited for Lohmar. She even had a light-hearted moment when an old friend came up to see her, resulting in hugs and a short conversation.
That friend also joined her in the courtroom, along with two other older women who had come to watch the proceedings in Courtroom II on the second floor of the Warren County Courthouse. After the hearing ended, the two women were stunned by the ruling.
"It pays to be a criminal," one said to the other as they exited the courthouse building.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at email@example.com