It’s likely no one else can provide the “fantastic” care that a Tremont woman gives to her son with “a very, very serious” disease, a federal judge said this week.

But while Melissa Gilmer’s devotion is critical and “suggests some sympathy,” her crime of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes as a federal prison guard must be punished, the judge said.

U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade wants “more nuanced” options for that punishment, he said Wednesday when he postponed Gilmer’s sentencing until June 13.

McDade complimented federal probation agents in Peoria’s U.S. District Court who related Gilmer’s family challenges in a pre-sentence report on her case, but asked them to “try to be creative” in their suggestions for how she might pay for her crime.

Gilmer, 41, pleaded guilty last December to one count of bribery for taking $6,000 from the family of an inmate at the Federal Corrections Institution in Pekin. Between August and December 2013, she provided the inmate with a cellphone, tobacco products and a lighter in return, according to the charge.

With no prior criminal record, McDade said Gilmer’s punishment under federal sentencing guidelines ranges from probation to up to 30 months in prison.

The items she gave the inmate weren’t dangerous in themselves, but any bribery accepted by a corrections officer “compromises the security of the prison,” McDade said. “It’s a slippery slope” that could produce blackmail threats demanding more smuggling by the guard, he said.

McDade told the probation agents to continue emphasizing that danger in their re-worked report while recognizing the challenges and successes achieved by Gilmer’s son, a junior high school student.

Despite an “incurable disease” that requires a “high (degree of) care perhaps all through his life,” Gilmer’s son is “a fantastic young man whose mother has done a fantastic job of caring for him,” McDade said.

“It’s possible that no one in the area can substitute her care for him,” the judge said, though the son’s father has “expressed an offer to take him on a short-term basis.”

McDade did not relate the nature of Gilmer’s son’s illness, detailed in the closed pre-sentence report, in his comments. Gilmer remains free on bond pending her sentencing.

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