Norma Jean Adams sat quietly Friday in a courtroom at the Scott County District Courthouse, her attorney, David Treimer by her side.
Dressed in black slacks, a black shirt and jacket, soft-soled shoes, her hair pulled back, Adams, 74, would shake at times, sob quietly and wipe away tears from her eyes.
For the second time in her life, the woman who had once been an executive for the School Nutrition Association of Iowa under the name of Norma Jean LaMantia waited to plead guilty to stealing money from an employer.
During her plea hearing, Adams faced Scott County District Judge Joel Barrows, answering his questions in a steady voice loud enough so that her answers could be properly recorded by the court reporter, per Barrows’ instructions.
During this part of the session, Barrows asked Adams if she understood what it meant to plead guilty to the charge, and if she understood all of her rights. To each question she replied, “Yes.”
Adams then pleaded guilty to one count of commission of specified unlawful activity under the Iowa code. The charge is a Class B felony under Iowa law that carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years.
A charge of first-degree theft, a Class C felony that carries a 10-year- prison sentence, was dismissed in accordance with the plea.
During the hearing, Adams read a statement to the court admitting that starting in 2010 and continuing until her resignation in 2016 she had worked from her home as an accountant for the School Nutrition Association of Iowa.
Adams admitted that during that time, she used money from the association for her own purposes, including “opening other accounts in the name of the School Nutrition Association,” the money from which she used herself.
According to a report filed June 1 by Iowa State Auditor Mary Mosiman, from Jan. 1, 2010, through July 31, 2016, an audit discovered $166,895.25 that was submitted to Norma Jean LaMantia but never made it into the association’s account.
While her contract was to run June 30, 2017, LaMantia, as she was known to the association, resigned in 2016, after the association’s officials began questioning her about their concerns.
Adams’ plea agreement stipulates that she must pay restitution in the amount of $156,248.25. She has offered to pay $100,000 of the restitution prior to her sentencing on Nov. 30. The Scott County Attorney’s Office has said if this is paid it "won’t resist supervised probation if deemed appropriate by the 7th Judicial Department of Correction.”
Treimer told Barrows that the money has been placed in his office’s trust fund and is ready for distribution.
Had she gone to trial on both of the charges against her, Adams faced the possibility of a 40-year prison sentence with a three-year mandatory minimum under Iowa’s habitual offender laws.
In March 2003, Adams pleaded guilty in Rock Island County Circuit Court to one count of theft of more than $10,000 but less than $100,000, a Class 2 felony under Illinois law, according to circuit court electronic records.
She had been working for the public television station WQPT at that time.
In that case, Adams was sentenced to 30 months on probation and ordered to pay $12,500 in restitution, and $1,150 in court costs and fees.
Adams remains free on bond in the Scott County case.