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Suspect in embezzlement case withdraws plea

April 28, 2012
By Jenny Lancour ( , Daily Press

ESCANABA - The former Harbor Tower director withdrew her "no contest" plea to embezzlement Friday, after the judge announced he would not be following the prosecutor's request for her not to serve jail time due to her medical condition.

A pretrial conference hearing will be scheduled in Delta County Circuit Court for Mary Lynn Sweeney, 62, of Escanaba, who is charged with one felony count of a public officer embezzling public funds and converting those monies for her own private use.

While director at Harbor Tower from 2005 to February 2012, Sweeney allegedly embezzled money by taking cash from a bill changer in the laundry room, according to Escanaba Public Safety, the investigating agency.

Since her arrest in early February, Sweeney paid a $43,700 cashier's check as restitution to the Escanaba Housing Commission, which manages the apartment complex.

Federal and local officials began investigating suspicious activity at Harbor Tower after police received a tip last summer of inappropriate actions taking place there.

Prior to her arrest in February, a deal was made between the prosecutor's office and Sweeney: if she pleaded straight up and paid restitution, she would have no jail time because her medical condition would be a burden on the county jail staff. Her medical condition was not disclosed.

On March 16, Sweeney appeared in circuit court with her attorney Trent Stupak. She entered a no contest plea to the embezzlement charge with the understanding she could withdraw her plea if Judge Stephen Davis chose not to follow the prosecution's sentencing recommendation. A no contest plea is considered a guilty plea for sentencing purposes.

During Friday's scheduled sentencing hearing, the judge announced he would not be following the prosecutor's recommendation, which included no jail time for the defendant. Stupak, on behalf of his client, withdrew Sweeney's previous no contest plea and court was adjourned.

The defense and prosecution will meet with the judge during a pretrial conference hearing to decide if Sweeney will make another plea or the case will be scheduled for a trial. The felony embezzlement charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

During Sweeney's plea hearing last month, Stupak told the court his client pleaded no contest because of pending civil litigation at the conclusion of this criminal case. No civil suits have been filed against Sweeney in Delta County as of Friday.



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