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Plea offer made in Silver Creek grand larceny case

July 1, 2008
By JOEL CUTHBERT
SILVER CREEK — Two Silver Creek Fire Department members charged with stealing from the village EMS account may avoid jail time with a plea deal. Stephanie L. Westbrook, 25, and George E. Westbrook Jr., 25, both of Robinson Street, were arrested May 14 following an extensive investigation by the Silver Creek Police Department into allegations of unauthorized cash withdrawals from the Silver Creek Emergency Squad account. The two now face charges of third-degree grand larceny, a class D non-violent felony, for withdrawals allegedly made between August 2007 and March 2008, totaling slightly over $27,000. The amount was previously reported incorrectly as $44,000. Both were officially removed from the active rolls of the Silver Creek Volunteer Fire Department at a village board meeting in May. Following their initial arraignment, they were released on their own recognizance to return to Silver Creek Village Court June 4. However, the matter did not return to local court due to the felony charges, Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley explained. During a pre-indictment conference June 10 — between the county court judge and council for both the prosecution and defense — the district attorney made an offer of a plea to the charge. “I think we were discussing the likelihood of five-years probation,” Foley said, “plus restitution so we could make the fire company whole.” This offer would require the defense to plead guilty to felony grand larceny charges, but would entail no jail time. Instead, the defense would be required to repay the money stolen within their five-year probation period, making structured monthly payments. Failure to make a payment would constitute a violation of probation, Foley explained, and result in local jail time or a state prison sentence. If the defense accepts the plea offer, the district attorney would file a Superior Court Information in which the defense waives their right to a preliminary hearing and a presentation to grand jury. However, as of late last week, Foley said his office has received no response from the defense council. If the district attorney’s office does not receive a response soon, or if the defense decides the plea offer is unacceptable, Foley added, he will schedule for a grand jury presentation. Foley said the prosecution has six months from the date of the filing of the accused, which is typically the same day as the arraignment, to present to a grand jury. “Even if we indited, I would imagine we would be making the same sort of offer,” he said. “We’re not looking to reduce (the charge with this plea offer), we’re just looking to get them to take responsibility and go on probation and pay it back.” Comments on this article can be sent to jcuthbert@observertoday.com
 
 

 

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