STANTON — A felony conviction and jail sentence Thursday were just the latest in a litany of personal problems for a former Montcalm County paramedic.
Jason Danford, 38, of Sheridan, pleaded guilty Jan. 12 to stealing or retaining a financial transaction device without consent.
He was sentenced Thursday to 30 days in the Montcalm County Jail with credit for two days already served, 18 months probation, 150 hours of community service and almost $1,000 in restitution.
Danford admitted to using a Montcalm County credit/debit card to purchase gas in Carson City and Stanton last July. He also used the card illegally in Grand Rapids, Ionia and Williamston, but those charges were dismissed in exchange for his plea. However, Danford must pay restitution for all expenses involved in all counties.
Danford was hired as a medical examiner investigator by Sparrow Forensic Pathology in Lansing, the medical examiner’s office for Montcalm County. Danford is no longer employed by Sparrow.
“The defendant, while technically not an employee of Montcalm County, was certainly in a position of trust with Montcalm County,” said Prosecutor Andrea Krause. “He used that trust by stealing the gas card that belonged to Montcalm County and then used it for his personal use.”
While Krause requested jail time for Danford, defense attorney Randy Norton asked 8th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Suzanne Hoseth Kreeger for a delayed sentence for his client.
“This is his first felony,” Norton said. “This has huge ramifications for my client, having a felony on his record, for having a license and being an EMT (emergency medical technician).”
Danford apologized to Montcalm County Controller-Administrator Chris Hyzer, the people of Montcalm County and the court for his actions.
“My biggest concern is having a felony for my license and not being able to work, which will inevitably put more of a burden on the people of the state,” Danford said.
Kreeger noted Danford was diagnosed with cancer and said she was not unsympathetic to his health situation, but she also noted his prior conviction for nonsufficient funds in 2008.
“Your conduct, although a first felony, involved your use of this card unlawfully through four different counties,” the judge said. “This involved six separate alleged offenses. Given the magnitude of the criminal conduct with that prior conviction, I can’t in good conscious afford you the opportunity of a delayed sentence. It doesn’t appear that this was an isolated act. This is criminal conduct. It goes to your truth and veracity. Certainly it is regrettable as it relates to the impact on your life.”
Danford was hired as a paramedic for Montcalm County in December 2007. His personnel file is full of warnings and write-ups about his behavior from May 2008 until he was fired in January 2011. Danford was finally fired Jan. 18, 2011, after he was caught sleeping in an ambulance while on the job Dec. 29, 2010.
The ambulance was 19 miles from where it should have been, causing a significant delay in response to a medical call. Danford initially lied about the situation and then falsified documents about the incident, according to his personnel file.
Montcalm County officials eventually accepted Danford’s resignation May 25, 2011, instead of firing him.