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Robertson v. State

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals

September 20, 2019

STATE of Alabama.

         Appeal from Blount Circuit Court (CC-16-145).

          J. Edward Lowe, Oneonta, for appellant.

          Steve Marshall, atty. gen., and Marc A. Starrett, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

         PER CURIAM.

         Paula 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.

         Facts and Procedural History

         In May 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 of Alabama."

(C. 48.) (Capitalization in original.)

         The 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

Page 136

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 evidence.

         Kelly 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.

         Stanton 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 ...

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