Emery County Commissioner Drew Sitterud appeared in court on Sept. 2 at 9 a.m. for a preliminary hearing concerning charges that were filed against him earlier this year concerning misuse of public monies.
Judge Douglas Thomas said a two day preliminary hearing had been set and he asked for the status of the case. Defense attorney, Sonny Olsen said there had been a change in the case and a plea agreement has been reached with the Utah attorney generals office. A copy of the amended plea agreement was presented to Judge Thomas.
Judge Thomas read the charges that Sitterud had, by the agreement, pled guilty to, which included two counts of wrongful appropriation of funds, which are Class A misdemeanors punishable by a maximum of one year in jail with a fine up to $2,500 plus an 85 percent surcharge.
In Count I, wrongful appropriation: That the defendant in Emery County, state of Utah on or about Nov. 3, 2005; Dec. 1, 2005; Jan. 5, 2006; Feb. 2, 2006; April 6, 2006, May 4, 2006 and/or Jan. 4, 2007, obtained or exercised unauthorized control over the property of another, without the consent of the owner or legal custodian and with intent to temporarily appropriate, possess, or use the property, or to temporarily deprive the owner or legal custodian of possession of the property, and that the value of the property exceeded $1,000.
In Count II, wrongful appropriation: That the defendant, in Emery County, state of Utah, on or about March 2, 2006 obtained or exercised unauthorized control over the property of another without the consent of the owner or legal custodian, and with intent to temporarily appropriate, possess, or use the property, or to temporarily deprive the owner or legal custodian of possession of the property, and that the value of the property exceeded $1,000.
In a written statement Sitterud said, "I understand that by pleading guilty I will be admitting that I committed the crimes listed above. I stipulate and agree that the following facts describe my conduct and the conduct of other persons for which I am criminally liable. These facts provide a basis for the court to accept my guilty pleas and prove the elements of the crimes to which I am pleading guilty: I am an elected Emery County Commissioner. I became a member of the Permanent Community Impact Board in the fall of 2005. When I attended various meetings of that board on the dates specified above, I drove an Emery County car. I submitted reimbursement forms to the board on which that information was not disclosed. Therefore I was reimbursed for mileage as though I had driven my private vehicle to those meetings, and received over $1,000."
Judge Thomas explained to Sitterud that a voluntary guilty plea would result in the waiver of constitutional rights. He said he understood.
"I know and understand that by pleading guilty, I am waiving and giving up all the statutory and constitutional rights," was a statement contained in Sitterud's statement. The plea agreement was between Commissioner Sitterud and the prosecuting attorney. The state will reduce the three charges of misusing public monies, each a Third Degree Felony to two wrongful appropriation, each a Class A Misdemeanor.
The state will therefore file an amended information charging Count 1, wrongful appropriation, a Class A Misdemeanor and Count II, wrongful appropriation, a Class A Misdemeanor. The defendant will plead guilty as charged to those two crimes. The state will recommend that no jail sentence be imposed in this case. Although the sentencing is up to the judge and he may take or reject any recommendations.
The judge asked if there was any restitution involved in the case. Prosecuting attorney Patrick Nolan said there might be and he would like to see a pre-sentencing investigation report compiled which could answer the question of how much restitution is involved. Olsen said he didn't think a pre-sentencing report was necessary, but a restitution hearing could be held. He also said the defendant has a clean record and they would like to proceed to sentencing so the matter could be decided so as not to cloud the upcoming election. Nolan said the restitution must be based on the various meetings attended. The negotiated settlement came quickly and the restitution amount hasn't been reached yet. Some of the funds have been reimbursed to Emery County and it needs to be determined how much is yet owed if any. Nolan also presented a letter to the court regarding a victim statement. Olsen said that report was not submitted in a timely matter and it was not relative at this time.
Nolan said victims are entitled to input. The victims statement was submitted to the court.
Olsen contended that the county clerk of Emery County would be the appropriate person to submit a statement because Emery County is the victim in the case. Judge Thomas said he would order a pre-sentencing investigation. He told Commissioner Sitterud that a PSI would work to his advantage and the report gives history of the defendant, along with gathering information on what has occurred. The Adult Probation and Parole will prepare the report. They will put their views on the report in regards to appropriate sentencing. The judge will make the final determination on sentencing.
"PSI is a proper tool to use to sentence you fairly," said Judge Thomas.
Judge Thomas said he was mindful of the time frame with the elections and asked James Weaver from AP