New plea hearing to be set for alleged embezzler

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By Tris DeRoma

A new plea hearing will be set in the case of Tabatha Jones, 35, a White Rock woman who is accused of embezzling $5,020.69 from the Los Alamos Youth Football and Cheerleading League between January and August 2017.

First District Court Judge Jason Lidyard rejected the state’s original plea agreement Wednesday because he said it did not include anything that would truly punish Jones for her actions.

Jones’ original plea agreement called for her to plead guilty to one count of embezzlement of over $2,500, a third-degree felony. In return, she would receive three years of supervised probation and would pay $5,020.69 in restitution to the Los Alamos Youth Football and Cheerleading League.

Once Jones paid the money, she would be placed on unsupervised probation.

“Imagine if it was a drug addict who shoplifted 50 to 60 times who came into this courtroom and wanted to handle the case the way you have done, with no supervision, nothing at all,” Lidyard said to First District Assistant Attorney Kent Wahlquist. “Miss Jones was clear of mind the whole time, not like a drug addict who is under the influence to support the act to support that addiction. There was no motivation here other than the decision to add more money, to provide for personal expenses.”

Wahlquist told the judge that his plea agreement does punish Jones, and it also helps the organization she allegedly stole from at the same time recover the $5,020.69 she allegedly stole from the league.

“With this plea your honor, we accomplish both those things. If she’s put on probation for three years, probation will work out a payment plan (to the league) for her and spread those payments out over three years, and there’s a possibility she wouldn’t pay it all back during those three years,” Wahlquist said. “With this plea, an early discharge from probation gives her an incentive to pay it right away.”

As for punishment, Wahlquist said having the plea worked out in district court guarantees it will be on her record.

“With us doing this plea in district court in front of your honor, even though its an unconditional discharge, any future employer if they bother to look, will find this and be put on notice.”

Lidyard reminded Wahlquist that giving Jones an unconditional discharge forever protects her from ever having to admit she committed a felony. He further emphasized some sort of punishment must be given.

“With a drug addict, if you treat the addiction they may stop from shoplifting at a particular establishment.  But Miss Jones, she has what she needs, and yet she continued to take. …If anything, this is the individual we need to monitor, this is the individual we need to supervise,” Lidyard said.

According to court records, a court hearing has not been set.