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Couple faces joint trial in kitchen embezzlement case

September 6, 2012
By Jenny Lancour - staff writer ( , Daily Press

ESCANABA - An Illinois couple, accused of taking the kitchen from their foreclosed home in Escanaba, will be tried in a joint trial and be represented by the same attorney when they go to court later this month.

Donald George Smith, 47, and his wife, Sandra Kay Smith, 46, of Round Lake, Ill., are each charged with embezzling mortgaged property valued at $1,000 to $20,000, a five-year felony. Their two-day jury trial is scheduled for Sept. 25-26 in Delta County Circuit Court.

During two recent motion hearings in circuit court, Judge Stephen Davis made separate rulings on the two cases.

Last week, Davis ruled the two cases could be consolidated and tried in a joint trial because the two defendants are charged with the same offense related to the same contract, transaction or scheme.

On Wednesday, the judge ruled the Smiths could be represented by the same attorney, Derek Swajanen of Marquette. The court is required to explore possible conflicts of interest resulting from the two defendants having the same lawyer in a trial, explained Davis.

During questioning via a speaker phone, both Sandra and Donald Smith agreed to have Swajanen represent them in a joint trial. The attorney told the judge there will be no contradictory defense.

"They're not pointing fingers at each other. They're husband and wife," commented Swajanen who has been representing the couple for several months.

The Smiths were arrested in January following a six-month investigation alleging they had removed kitchen cabinets and appliances from their home after it was foreclosed by First Bank in 2011. The couple is free on bond.

According to testimony presented in district court this spring, the Smith home at 528 S. 9th St. in Escanaba was undergoing foreclosure last year and was sold on a sheriff sale in April 2011. Later that summer, the Smiths allegedly removed the custom kitchen valued at more than $30,000, according to testimony.

In addition to the maximum punishment of five years in prison, the embezzlement charge carries a maximum fine of $10,000 or three times the amount embezzled, whichever is greater.



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