JANESVILLE

A former Rock County jailer pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing from a jail inmate and was sentenced to 12 months of probation.

The sentencing came as part of a plea agreement in which Mitchell R. Wellnitz, 22, of 8727 E. Avalon Road, Avalon, pleaded guilty to theft of property valued at $2,500 to $5,000 and misconduct in public office, both felonies.

Wellnitz also pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor theft charge.

Judge John Wood withheld a finding of guilt on the felonies and gave Wellnitz probation for the misdemeanor theft.

Wood can sentence Wellnitz on the felonies if he violates the rules of probation.

Wellnitz has paid $3,000 in restitution and must pay the balance of $453 in addition to $700 owed to Pawn America in Madison, Wood decided.

Wellnitz was accused of taking a gold necklace valued at $2,400 and a gold ring valued at $669 from an inmate in the jail’s Huber dormitory last June.

“Mr. Wellnitz was placed in a position of power and authority, and in that position he violated the public’s trust,” said Assistant District Attorney Cheniqua White.

The inmate said he once believed jailers were trustworthy and honest, but he has lost his trust in law enforcement, White said.

The crime calls for punishment, and the probation, along with a criminal conviction on Wellnitz’s record provide that, White said.

Defense attorney Jack Hoag said his client made a serious mistake.

The sentence sends a message that such actions in government won’t be tolerated while giving Wellnitz a chance to show the court he is “worthy of the investment the court is making in him,” Hoag said.

Wellnitz did not speak on his own behalf.

Wood agreed Wellnitz violated the public trust.

“The fact that you are such a young man, the fact that you have no criminal record—we aren’t going to treat you different than anyone else with a similar background,” Wood said.

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