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ASHDOWN, Ark. —A former Arkansas state representative who used funds from the Little River Chamber of Commerce to buy booze and cigarettes was ordered to serve four months behind bars and five years probation at a sentencing hearing Tuesday afternoon.

Fonda Hawthorne, 62, pleaded guilty to theft of property last month with the help of Texarkana lawyer Jeff Harrelson. Hawthorne appeared Tuesday before Circuit Judge Charles Yeargan for sentencing in the 9th Judicial District which includes Little River County.

Yeargan ordered Hawthorne to turn herself in to the Little River County Sheriff's Office by 6 p.m. to begin serving her 120-day confinement in Arkansas Community Corrections, Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Chesshir said. Prior to sentencing, Hawthorne paid the full $7,399.61 she owed in restitution to the Chamber of Commerce.

Hawthorne used a debit card issued to her for expenses related to her work as Chamber Director at tobacco and liquor stores, records show.

Chesshir said Hawthorne sobbed as Yeargan pronounced sentence in her case. Her punishment includes a $1,000 fine and other costs of court.

Chesshir said Hawthorne has completed a rehabilitaion program for alcoholism since her misdeeds were reported to police in January 2018. Chesshir said Yeargan considered that Hawthorne has expressed remorse and taken steps to address her underlying issues when arriving at her sentence.

Hawthorne served as Director of the Chamber of Commerce earning a $25,000 annual salary, Chesshir said. As representative of Arkansas' Fourth House District, Hawthorne was paid $15,000 annually. She served from 2013 to 2015.

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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