EL DORADO -- The final two defendants in a yearslong federal case dealing with the creation and execution of a false will for an estate of more than $1 million were sentenced in federal court in El Dorado on Wednesday.
In April 2018, Marion Diane Kinley pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced to 18 months in the federal Bureau of Prisons. She faced up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Jordan Alexandra Peterson was sentenced to three years of probation for lying to an FBI agent, an allegation to which she pleaded guilty in January 2018.
Donna Herring, who actually created the false will, was sentenced Tuesday to 41 months in federal prison. Herring pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in January of this year.
John Wayne Kinley, the fourth co-defendant, was sentenced Tuesday to 12 months plus one day in federal prison. The additional day makes him eligible for "good conduct time," meaning he could serve less than his 12-month sentence. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud in January.
In April of 2012, Matthew Seth Jacobs, a survivor of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, began receiving payments from a multimillion-dollar settlement as a result of injuries he suffered in the explosion.
He met Herring the following month, and her family quickly became involved in his life. He bought real estate through Herring, worked with the business of Herring's husband, and -- at Herring's urging -- began dating Peterson, Herring's then-high-school-aged daughter.
On Jan. 19, 2015, Jacobs was killed in an automobile accident, leaving his then-minor son, Jordan Jacobs, as his only heir. However, no will was found.
Five days after Matthew Jacobs' death, Herring searched the internet for information related to Arkansas probate law and created a fake will that was signed the following morning by John and Diane Kinley. The Kinleys' debit card was used to pay for a subscription to formswift.com, the legal-document-preparation site through which the fake will was created.
Herring claimed to have found a sealed envelope containing a copy of Matthew Jacobs' will at her office in Camden. The "original" was located in the gun safe, which was previously searched by Lance Reed and Jordan Jacobs, in Matthew Jacobs' home.
The fake will named Jordan Jacobs and Peterson as beneficiaries, with Jordan Jacobs receiving $50,000 to go toward college or trade school, and the remainder of the estate going to Peterson. The estate has been valued at between $1.3 million and $1.7 million.
In November 2016, Herring was indicted by a grand jury on counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Subsequent superseding indictments named the other defendants, all of whom eventually pleaded guilty to crimes in exchange for having other charges against them dismissed.
There was extensive discussion in court Tuesday about whether Diane Kinley was a minor or a more-substantial participant in the crimes. After several witness testimonies and arguments from the prosecution and defense, U.S. District Judge Susan O. Hickey determined that Diane Kinley's participation in the crime was minor, resulting in less criminal exposure for her.
Before sentencing, Diane Kinley's attorney, Bruce Eddy, requested that his client serve less time than Hickey's sentencing guidelines of 21 to 28 months in prison. He also asked that his client to be sentenced to probation.
"She has been bullied her entire life ... and Donna Herring coming over and telling Ms. Kinley and John Kinley that these things needed to be signed ... John Kinley tells us that Ms. Kinley knows what happens when you tell Donna no," Eddy said, referring to John Kinley's earlier testimony that he and his wife had a difficult time telling Herring no because of Diane Kinley's previous experiences with her.
"Bullying is a true thing," Eddy went on. "It's now being recognized for the danger and problems it causes, much like the #MeToo movement. ... It might seem hard to think when you first think about it, but bullying can cause you to commit a criminal offense."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Wulf disagreed with Eddy's assessment, noting that Diane Kinley never told the truth about having knowingly signed a fake will until after she'd been caught and charged.
"The lies remained even through the FBI investigation," Wulf said. "They maintained their silence, all to the detriment of Mr. Jacobs; all to the detriment of the estate; all to the detriment of the court system."
Peterson pleaded guilty in January 2018 to lying to the FBI after she falsely said that she did not know the location of Matthew Jacobs' cellphone. She was discovered to have taken possession of the cellphone later.
Peterson's attorney, Allen Roberts, urged Hickey to sentence her to probation. She faced up to five years in prison, and the sentencing guidelines called for zero to six months of incarceration.
Peterson did not speak on her own behalf, and the prosecution did not offer any final comments about her case. She was sentenced to three years of probation, with the first six months to be served in home detention with electronic monitoring.
"I don't take your conduct lightly," Hickey said.
The case is to close out today after a restitution hearing held with Herring and the Kinleys. Peterson's charge does not call for restitution. The restitution hearing is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. in the federal building in El Dorado.
Metro on 11/14/2019
Print Headline: Final terms in fake will case settled; Arkansan who created false document gets prison term