Family, D.A., Victims Cooperate to Free Imprisoned Cancer Sufferer Kathy White

Most tales about the criminal justice system focus on adversarial relationships, with alleged criminals on one side, police and prosecutors on the other, and judges left to decide who wins the day.

The Kathy White story is different.

White, a former bookkeeper, was in prison when she was she was hit full-force with cancer. Only a bone-marrow transplant will save her life — and while she's got a donor (her brother), the procedure couldn't be conducted while she was behind bars.

Rather than simply let her die, her family — and specifically her daughters — fought for her to be released in order to receive treatment. And thanks to a compassionate, and unlikely, coalition forged between her loved ones, prosecutors, the victims of her crimes and a district court judge, she was freed yesterday.

There are no guarantees that White will survive. She's in precarious health, to put it mildly. But her odds have improved dramatically.

Anna Holland Edwards of the law firm Holland Holland Edwards Grossman, who worked on behalf of White along with partner John Holland, provides the background.

"Kathy was in jail for embezzlement," Holland Edwards explains; as reported by the Canon City Daily Record, White was sentenced to four years in prison in July 2014 for embezzling more than $500,000 from three businesses, Kwik Star Inc., Triple Play Enterprises and Beaver Park Investments. "She didn't have a previous criminal history, though — and she has a condition called MDS."

These initials stand for Myelodysplastic syndromes, a condition in which "the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow are damaged," according to The ailment is related to leukemia.

To survive MDS, White needed a bone-marrow transplant, "and her brother is a ten-of-ten match," Holland Edwards continues. But even though White had a surgeon, the Colorado Department of Corrections "wouldn't let her get the surgery," she adds.

Her family refused to simply accept this verdict. One of her daughters, joined by a boyfriend, contacted Holland Edwards' firm — "They just showed up in our lobby," Holland Edwards recalls — and together, the attorneys and the families coordinated an effort to win White's release.

"Three different doctors sent letters about how serious her condition is and how dire the need was," Holland Edwards says. "And Thom LeDoux, the prosecuting attorney in Fremont Count (specifically the 11th Judicial District), worked with me. He put me in touch with the victims' attorney, Kris Miller out of Colorado Springs, and Kris talked to his clients. And even though they still have a lawsuit against Kathy trying to get their money back, they all agreed they didn't want anything to compromise her health."

Indeed, representatives of the three businesses even appeared at the court hearing to demonstrate their support for White's release, joining a group of family members and supporters. "There were probably thirty people there," Holland Edwards notes.

And while White was too ill to appear, 11th Judicial District Judge Patrick Murphy was able to speak directly to her via telephone — and when she burst into tears, so did many of the people in the courtroom. Also available was one of her doctors, the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center's John Burke, whose report the judge accepted. And Murphy had one of his clerks "call the DOC to find someone who could get her out," Holland Edwards adds.

She was released yesterday and arrangements are under way for the bone-marrow transplant.

This resolution cheers Holland Edwards. "This was the rare opportunity from my standpoint to be on the front-end of a situation — to be able to intervene before something happened. And maybe rarer of all, all sides of a legal dispute came together quickly to try to save a life: the court, the criminal-defendant's family, everyone."

Adds John Holland, "Dr. Burke is a hero, the children are heroes, and the victims were really cool. It was pretty amazing — just one of those moments. No one wanted Kathy's criminal conduct to be a death sentence. And even though her life is still at risk, now at least she's got a shot."

Here's an uncropped version of the photo at the top of this post, taken yesterday afternoon, following White's release.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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