A 37-year-old Poolesville mother of four collapsed in the Montgomery Country Circuit Court Wednesday after a judge sentenced her to five years in the state penitentiary in a $1,300 welfare fraud case.
Shirley Mae Thompson, who pleaded guilty last May to making a false statement on her welfare application, slumped down in her chair, fell to the floor and began crying and moaning, according to witnesses.
She was taken to Montgomery General Hospital, treated for a fainting spell and released, a hospital spokesman said. She was taken to the county detention center awaiting placement in the Women's House of Correction in Jessup, Md.
Thompson served a two-year sentence in the late 1960s for forgery, according to Arthur Brisker, her attorney, who said she had told him "on numerous occasions" that she thought she could not survive going back to prison. Brisker said Thompson required psychiatric help following her release.
According to both defense and prosecuting attorneys, Judge Plummer M. Sherin told them Thompson's record had influenced him in the sentencing.
But Brisker and Deputy State's Attorney Timothy C. Clark said they were surprised at the severity of the sentence. The maximum penalty for welfare fraud is 10 years in prison.
Thompson was originally charged with 12 counts of welfare fraud amounting to overpayments of $25,000 between 1973 and 1978, but 11 of the counts were dropped when she pleaded guilty to one.
Her guilty plea was to making false statements to obtain $1,300 by failing to inform the Welfare Department she had remarried in 1973 and her husband was earning an income.