Bookstore Fraud Case Postponed
In light of new evidence, defendants may face lighter sentences.
November 24, 2003 2:28 PM
New evidence could affect the current charges against the the 19 defendants in the SF State bookstore fraud case.
The new evidence was presented by prosecutor James Thompson in the form of a memo a little more than two weeks ago. In light of this new complication, a motion was approved this Thursday granting defense attorneys in the SF State bookstore fraud case an additional two months to prepare for their pending case.
If the SF State bookstore is found to be a private company rather than a governmental organization, felony charges of embezzlement and theft of public funds against 19 defendants could be reduced to misdemeanors, which carry half as much jail time.
“If the bookstore is an independent private company, the penalty is half as severe as if it is a governmental organization,” defense attorney Anthony Lowenstein said. “The charges still are felony charges, but the jail time is half less.”
When charges were first filed by the district attorney's office in January of this year, the bookstore was treated as part of SF State and therefore a governmental institution. The contents of the new memo, however, describe the auxiliary relationship between the bookstore and the university. It stated that the bookstore is in a contracting association with the university. This fact has great impact on the case, according to many of the defense councils.
The 19 defendants in the case are charged with committing fraud and stealing money from the bookstore. According to the prosecution, the defendants faked merchandise returns and falsified returns for themselves and their friends. Investigators traced the alleged frauds as far back as 1999. A former supervisor discovered the illegal activity in January of 2002.
Thompson explained the new evidence affects two of the four charges filed against the defendants. He said the charges of embezzlement and theft of public funds could be reduced to misdemeanors, which carry a much less severe penalty.
David Harrison, attorney for Michelle Monce, spoke in court asking Judge Lam for additional time so the defense can get the necessary documents to prove the bookstore is not a governmental organization. Judge Newton Lam quickly approved the motion by the defense with no objection from Thompson.
The next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 28, 2004.
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