Paula P. ROBERTSON,
STATE of Alabama.
from Blount Circuit Court (CC-16-145).
Edward Lowe, Oneonta, for appellant.
Marshall, atty. gen., and Marc A. Starrett, asst. atty. gen.,
P. Robertson appeals her conviction for first-degree theft of
property, a violation of § 13A-8-3, Ala. Code 1975, and
her resulting sentence of 30 months' imprisonment. Her
sentence was suspended, and she was ordered to serve five
years on supervised probation. Robertson was also ordered to
pay a $250 fine, a $50 Alabama Crime Victims Compensation
Assessment, and $17,419.18 in restitution to the Summit
Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department ("the SVFD").
This appeal follows.
and Procedural History
2016, the Blount County grand jury returned an indictment
charging Robertson with one count of first-degree theft of
property. The indictment read as follows:
"The GRAND JURY of said county charge that, before the
finding of this INDICTMENT, PAULA P ROBERTSON, whose name
to the Grand Jury is otherwise unknown, did knowingly
obtain or exert unauthorized control over U.S. CURRENCY, a
further description of which to the Grand Jury is otherwise
unknown, from the person of STATE OF ALABAMA, with the
intent to deprive the owner of said property, in violation
of Section 13A-8-3 of the Code of Alabama (1975),
as last amended, against the peace and dignity of the State
(C. 48.) (Capitalization in original.)
following evidence was presented at trial:
Chris Latta, an executive at Peoples Bank, identified bank
records for Robertson's personal bank account that
showed deposits made to Robertson's account, as well as
monthly bank statements for Robertson's
account from 2013 through 2016. Latta also identified bank
records from two separate bank accounts belonging to the
SVFD, which included records showing the deposits made to
the SVFD accounts and the monthly bank statements from 2013
through 2016. Copies of those records were entered into
Stanton, the secretary-treasurer of the SVFD, testified that
when she became the treasurer of the SVFD, Robertson was the
chief of the SVFD. Stanton stated that Robertson also had the
financial records for the SVFD at that time. According to
Stanton, when she became treasurer, Robertson did not deliver
the books to Stanton despite Stanton's repeated attempts
to get them. Instead, Stanton went to Peoples Bank to obtain
the bank statements for the SVFD accounts. Stanton testified
that the SVFD had two bank accounts — a general
account and a restricted account. Stanton claimed that the
general account was for "any day-to-day business"
that the SVFD needed and that the restricted account
"held funds that could only be used for certain
things." (R. 45.) The restricted account contained money
obtained from other organizations, such as the Blount County
Commission and the Forestry Association, and the money
received from those organizations was earmarked for certain
respective uses. When Stanton reviewed the bank statements
for the SVFD accounts, she noticed overdraft fees on the
restricted account on the statements, which totaled $215.
also testified that she and her husband had purchased a car
from SVFD some time between 2014 and 2016 and that she paid
for the car using cash. The cash for the purchase of the car
in the amount of $550 was given to Robertson; however, when
Stanton reviewed the bank records, she was unable to find a
record indicating that the money had been deposited into
either of the SVFD's accounts. Additionally, Stanton
discovered other "irregularities" with the account,
such as checks written from the accounts for large amounts of
money to Robertson and to "Brooksville Food Mart,"
"Lucky's Food Mart," and "Wal-Mart,"
which were all expenditures Stanton was not aware of. (R.
52.) Stanton stated that while she was serving as treasurer,
she was unaware of any reason Robertson would have needed to
make expenditures on behalf of the SVFD to Lucky's Food
Mart or Wal-Mart discount store, with a few exceptions when
the SVFD needed to buy spray paint and other items from
Wal-Mart or to buy sandwich ingredients for the SVFD from
Lucky's Food Mart; however, when those purchases were
made, Stanton was aware of them. Stanton testified that,
during the time she served as secretary-treasurer for SVFD
from 2014 to 2016, no one was authorized to make cash
withdrawals from either the general or the restricted
account. She also testified that no one was authorized to use
SVFD funds to pay their utility bills or their household
expenditures through either of the SVFD bank accounts.
Stanton testified that no members of the SVFD were paid for
their services. Stanton claimed that the only wage to be paid
from the SVFD was to the chief in the amount of $25 per month
for a fuel allowance for ...