Leona Jull. Courtesy photo
WOODLAND — A day after a mistrial was declared in her grand theft case, the former executive director of Woodland’s Fourth & Hope homeless shelter avoided a second trial by pleading no contest to the charge.
Leona Jull, 47, had been accused of using the nonprofit service agency’s credit cards and checks to make more than $32,000 worth of personal expenditures over a two-year period. Jurors deliberated over a three-day period but declared themselves hopelessly deadlocked Tuesday, with half the panel voting to convict.
The case was ordered back to Yolo Superior Court this morning, where Jull entered a plea agreement in which she would admit to the grand theft charge, which Judge David Rosenberg reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.
“I feel under the circumstances this will be a fair resolution,” Rosenberg said, citing Jull’s lack of a prior criminal record, her years of service with Fourth & Hope — formerly known as the Yolo Wayfarer Center — and the agency’s lack of written policies and procedures for use of company credit cards.
Jull is expected to receive probation at her sentencing hearing on Aug. 29. Rosenberg also said he anticipates ordering her to pay about $2,500 in restitution for nine of the allegedly fraudulent purchases, including cell phone and satellite TV service as well as a furniture set that police found in her Arbuckle living room.
Testifying in her own defense last week, Jull had characterized the purchases she made as either legitimate business-related expenditures — such as gas and restaurant meals — or “mistakes” for which she reimbursed Fourth & Hope, which provides food, shelter and other services to the homeless.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McHugh, who prosecuted the case and was prepared to try it a second time, objected today to the decision to reduce the felony grand theft charge.
“This defendant was given a position of incredible trust … and with that she decided she wasn’t going to put in place procedures that would prevent the theft she was committing,” McHugh said in court. “The violation of that trust is not a misdemeanor, in the people’s view.”
Robbin Coker, Jull’s defense attorney, disagreed. “The court has it right,” she said.
Jurors had the option of convicting Jull of a lesser crime, such as misdemeanor petty theft, but in order to do that would have had to acquit her of the felony grand theft count. Instead, jurors were evenly split 6-6 on that charge.
After briefly leaving the courtroom Tuesday to discuss whether additional arguments by the attorneys would help them reach a unanimous decision, the jury returned with grim news.
“With the exception of (hearing) new substantial evidence, I think we’re currently at an impasse,” the foreman reported. With that, a mistrial was declared and the panel dismissed.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene