Michael McKinnon
Michael McKinnon
January 9, 2014

The man who stole more than $70,000 from the Denison Fire Department while he was its chief and lamented after he was convicted for felony theft that "all those things I hear about that happen in prison - I can't do it," failed to persuade state appeals judges to keep him out of prison.

Michael McKinnon, 43, pleaded guilty in January to the crime and asked for a deferred judgment - or, at least, a suspended prison sentence - when he was sentenced in March.

He is a father of two who feared losing his job as an instructor at a New Mexico college, for which he was hired before state auditors uncovered about $96,000 worth of improper spending by the fire and emergency medical services departments from 2005 to 2010. McKinnon used department money to buy services from businesses he owned and to buy personal items, such as a boat motor and power tools. He also threatened city officials as they investigated the improper spending.

"This is a large amount of money, done over a large amount of time, done in a manner of ways," District Judge Jeffrey Poulson said in March. "All of these things add up to the fact that a deferred judgment is simply not appropriate."

Poulson instead imposed the 10-year sentence, and McKinnon appealed on the claim that Poulson failed to give full consideration to a suspended prison sentence.

But Iowa Court of Appeals Judge Mary Tabor wrote in an opinion filed today that Poulson "did consider the possibility of a suspended sentence. The court gave adequate reasons for imposing a prison sentence and did not abuse its discretion."

"It was not unreasonable for the sentencing court to impose a prison term to 'deter other officials from committing offenses' and to punish McKinnon's serious breach of the public trust," Tabor concluded. "We find no cause to disturb McKinnon's sentence."

McKinnon was released from Crawford County Jail after he posted a $10,000 appeals bond, jail officials said. He resigned from his college job shortly after the sentencing.

It's unclear when he might return to Iowa to serve the sentence. McKinnon will serve less than half of the sentence if he is well-behaved and could be paroled earlier.