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Ex-Speedway Fire Chief Pleads Guilty to Theft, Won't Serve Jail Time

Speedway's former fire chief won't serve any jail time for stealing $58,000 from the department.

Mark Watson resigned last fall after town officials confronted him with charges of financial misconduct. He's already repaid the money an audit says he stole by diverting department checks and making personal purchases on his town credit card. 

Watson pleaded guilty Monday to theft and official misconduct. His plea bargain calls for 120 hours of community service. It also included a rare requirement of a public apology, which Watson delivered in court and then repeated outside the courtroom for reporters.

"The citizens of Speedway...are the greatest people in the world. I violated their trust, and they deserved better," Watson said. "I'm deeply sorry, and I have sacrificed greatly to repay them as quickly as possible, because they deserve it." The ex-chief didn't take any questions.

Defense attorney David Hennessy told Marion Superior Judge Annie Christ-Garcia that some of the purchases questioned by a state audit, including a laptop and a barbecue grill, had been for the fire department's use and are now department property. But he says Watson instructed him not to "quibble" about the amount owed.

Town manager Ian Nicolini says the town council agreed to request the apology as part of the agreement. He says the town's other priority was to make sure Watson got a felony conviction, to prevent him from getting a similar job elsewhere and, in Nicolini's words, "victimizing another community."

Christ-Garcia left the door open for Watson to request a reduction to a misdemeanor if he repays the $21,000 cost of a state audit ahead of a two-year deadline.

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