GREENEVILLE - A former U.S. Postal Service employee, charged with failing to deliver more than 2,200 letters and cards along her route, will not serve any jail time for her offense.
Sonya Annette Cooper pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Greeneville in September to unlawfully detaining and delaying mail entrusted to her as a Postal Service employee.
On Monday, Cooper was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to pay $146 in restitution and serve 150 hours of community service. Cooper faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Prosecutors say Cooper blamed a crack cocaine addiction as the reason why she failed to deliver the letters and cards along her route during a three-month period in 2005.
According to court documents, Cooper was employed by the USPS from April 1997 to June 1998 at the Greeneville post office and at the Mooresburg post office from June 1998 until her resignation in September 2005. As a rural carrier associate, her duties included delivering mail on dates that the regular rural carrier was not on duty.
Court records state that on March 12, 2005, Cooper left the Mooresburg post office to deliver mail for Rural Route Number 1 but returned about an hour later telling the postmaster that she "could not do this" and that she was "going to rehab."
Because Cooper left mail at the post office that should have been delivered, she was told by the postmaster that she would face termination if she continued to do so, court records state.
Prosecutors say a customer who lived on Rural Route Number 1 sent a letter to the postmaster in September 2005 talking about the problems Chelaque Estates had with its Saturday mail delivery, including several instances of non-delivery.
"In talking with neighbors, it is not just us, but all of Chelaque," the letter stated.
Court records state on that same day in September, two postal inspectors drove to the residence of Terry Pinkston - the father of Cooper's twin children - and discovered Pinkston removing mail from his vehicle. The inspectors recovered the mail, along with 75 "Mail South" flats dated March 30, 2004, which were in a shed beside the driveway.
Prosecutors say the mail that should have been delivered on Rural Route 1 from May through August 2005 included:
•192 first-class letters and cards.
•2,150 standard rate letters.
•24 standard rate parcels.
•194 standard rate flats.
•324 Hawkins County "Weekly Review" flats.
•150 "Mail South" flats.
During an interview with postal inspectors on Sept. 30, 2005, Cooper admitted to not delivering the mail and blamed the behavior on a crack cocaine addiction.