Disgraced Philadelphia ex-sportscaster Don Tollefson deserves "a strict and grueling regimen of community service" instead of prison for fleecing hundreds of people out of thousands of dollars they paid for phony sports-travel packages, his attorney argued in a plea for mercy filed today in Bucks County.
Tollefson, 62, will be sentenced tomorrow morning before Judge Rea B. Boylan, after a jury in January found him guilty of theft and violations of state charity rules. Tollefson represented himself at trial, but attorney Robert Goldman, who assisted his defense, filed a sentencing memorandum yesterday urging Boylan to consider whether "one additional year of Tollefson staring at the mortar that binds cinder block walls somehow improves the lives of the victims, the public and those who are better served by a strict and grueling regimen of community service."
"Mr. Tollefson does not present a risk of recidivism and is a non-violent offender," Goldman wrote. "This defendant has the proven track record to do so much good when clarity of thought replaces the toxic mixture of alcohol and pills."
Tollefson faces up to 37 years in prison for scamming more than $340,000 from about 200 donors, including a foundation organized in the name of a slain police officer. Such a stiff sentence is unlikely, though, because he is a first-time offender. He rejected a plea deal before his trial that would have required restitution, seven months in state prison, probation and drug treatment.
Tollefson, known as "Tolly" to fans, was once the highest paid sportscaster in Philadelphia, where he worked for the local ABC and Fox TV affiliates. He has blamed his criminal troubles on drug and alcohol addiction and poor financial management.