Letter: Why only one side of the story?

The Rappahannock News front page coverage of Tammy Atkins’ sentencing [“Embezzlement leads to six months in jail,” Aug. 29] was remarkable in that it omitted the most compelling and important part of the case. Under the main headline are subheadings which read “Atkins stole thousands from former mayor” and “Breach-of-trust case of the most egregious kind.” Accompanying this was a picture of Mrs. Atkins, shackled and in prison stripes, being “led to jail.”

There is no “excuse” for what Tammy Atkins did. The law does not care about excuses. But there is an explanation and a very coherent reason for this normally functioning and hard-working parent and productive member of the community to have engaged in these uncharacteristic episodes of erratic, impulsive and risky behavior.

Mrs. Atkins suffers from bipolar disorder, commonly known as “manic-depression.” [See Editor’s Note, below.] As anyone who has a family member who suffers from this condition knows, it can manifest itself in very troubling ways. Tammy has worked for us for many years, and she has earned our respect as a conscientious employee.

On occasion, I have sensed the “manic-depressive” mood swings common to the disorder. As it turns out, her condition had been misdiagnosed, and she is now receiving psychotherapy and taking the proper medication for this syndrome. This was brought out in the sentencing proceeding. It was not mentioned in the Rappahannock News coverage.

It is unfortunate that the newspaper’s somewhat sensational presentation of the sentencing somehow became part of the public censure of Mrs. Atkins. And it is unfortunate that she is not out of incarceration and able to work to pay the restitution that is due to Mrs. Leggett.

I believe that Mrs. Atkins has already realized that her arrest was a blessing of intervention that has put her on a path to recovery. Folks will make up their own minds about her offense, but I would like to think that we are an understanding and forgiving community.

The prophet Micah said: “What does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

I believe that justice has been done. And I hope that as neighbors we find the necessary mercy that is required of us.

Ben Jones

[Editor’s Note: Though neither was read aloud in open court (nor was any medical testimony part of Atkins’ sentencing hearing), two of the letters submitted to Rappahannock County Circuit Court on behalf of Tammy Atkins — one from Dr. Thomas M. Cardwell and one from Barbara Adolfi, LCSW — mention that Atkins suffers from bipolar disorder. Cardwell’s letter said Atkins suffered from “mood instability episodes” in 2012; Adolfi’s asserts she has met with Atkins weekly since her incarceration in June.]