Hanover County woman accused of faking cancer will enter a plea

Posted at 10:16 PM, Jan 03, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-03 23:20:50-05

Hanover County, Va. (WTVR) - It was a story that made national headlines. A Hanover county woman accused of claiming she had cancer to scam sympathetic people out of money.

It started with an anonymous tip in April of 2011. That’s when investigators say Martha Ann Nicholas told the American Cancer Society she was a three-time cancer survivor...on her death-bed.

The 42-year-old eventually pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of obtaining money by false pretenses, though her attorney said at the time that she suffered from a mental illness, and actually believed that she had cancer.

She was fined $100 dollars and placed on five years' probation.

Then, last June, a grand jury indicts Nicholas on five felony charges – including Medicaid fraud.

During a hearing this past November, the defense again says they will attempt to prove that Nicholas had a mental disorder that not only convinced her that she had the disease, but also brought out physical symptoms consistent with cancer.

But, prosecutors argued that the insanity defense is not a sliding scale, and that if Nicholas had mental competence to understand her actions then she should be tried accordingly.

A trial date was set for January 8th.

But Thursday, CBS 6 learned from Hanover County Commonwealth`s Attorney Trip Chalkley, there won't be a trial next week, because both sides have reached a resolution, and Nicholas has agreed to enter a plea.

CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone believes a guilty plea in this case is advantageous for Nicholas because each charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

“A jury trial is really risky in Virginia because the jury does the sentencing,” Stone said.

As opposed to a judge who uses sentencing guidelines and can even suspend a sentence.

“In a plea agreement, each side gives up something and gets something in return,” he says.

According to Stone, prosecutors are good with this as long as the defense agrees to something specific prosecutors want.

“If she [Nicholas] pleads no contest, she`s basically agreeing that there`s enough evidence to find her guilty, but is not admitting that she did it. It`s going to put her in the same position as pleading guilty so there`s no great benefit for doing that,” Stone said.

CBS 6 will be in court for Nicholas’ plea on January 8th.