The color of money - or tissues?

Cary Ashby • Mar 26, 2014 at 9:47 AM

A defense attorney alleges someone other than his client changed documentation about Willard basketball ticket sales, which led to a related theft investigation and the retirement of his client, a long-time school employee.

Sandusky attorney John Gold also is contesting the surveillance footage which appears to show his client putting a stack of cash in her left pocket -- the one nearest the camera. Willard City Schools Superintendent Jeff Ritz recently released the footage at the request of the Reflector.

"It definitely shows something in her pocket," Gold said.

The suspect's attorney contends the item more closely resembles tissues than money. The Reflector isn't naming the woman because she hasn't been charged. Prosecutors have said there hasn't been any decision made on what to do with the case.

Gold said what his client put in her pocket "is as white as fresh fallen snow" -- and isn't green like dollar bills.

"It looks like tissues," he added, noting his client has put tissues in her pockets for years.

The video clearly shows the woman putting something in her left pocket near the end of the 5 1/2-minute video. Upon repeated viewings, it appears the color of the item in question is the same as the stacks of cash she stacked and counted.

The now-retired employee is accused of stealing $200 from basketball ticket sales. The allegation is in connection with a Feb. 14 incident.

When the woman was interviewed later by the Willard Police Department, she retrieved the jacket she wore Feb. 14 and after she let officers look in the jacket, they reportedly found some tissues, Gold said.

"The police came to her door. They had a discussion," he added.

The attorney addressed the cash-vs.-tissue issue in a March 7 letter to prosecutors.

"Even the most untrained eye can easily conclude that the item which (my client) placed in her pocket was as white as the freshly fallen snow and does not resemble currency in any way. It is (my client's) belief that what she placed in her pocket were tissues, which she always carried with her as a matter of custom and habit. This belief should also be corroborated by the Willard Police Department's own investigation, during which (my client) emptied her pocket, while in the presence of the investigating officer, to reveal white tissue," Gold wrote.

The woman was stationed in the north end of the Willard High School gymnasium Feb. 14. Two more school employees were at the south entrance.

"This is the standard procedure for the gate ticket sales," Gold told the Reflector.

The suspect sat at a table in a hallway by herself. To her left was the cash box.

She lays out some cash and counts it at the 1:25 mark in the video. About 50 seconds later, she restacks the bills and then makes some notes.

At the 2:31 mark, the woman puts the same cash in the cash drawer. Four seconds later, she counts another stack of bills.

The woman directs two male students to a room to the right of the table at the 3:54 mark. They open the door and close it behind them. About 15 seconds later, the woman puts a stack of cash in the drawer and makes some more notes.

At 5:12 in the video, one of the students opens the door and leaves the room. About nine seconds later, the woman puts something that was in front of the cash box -- what appears to be a stack of money -- in her left pocket, the one nearest the camera.

Gold said his client turned in the money, cash sheets and color-coded ticket stubs sometime after half-time of the Willard vs. Shelby basketball game -- possibly as late the third quarter. The attorney said the athletic director and two other ticket-takers checked the money and documents indicating there were $456 in sales before making a deposit, but someone changed that figure to $256.

"(My client) stayed well after the game, which was her custom," Gold said.

"Meanwhile $200 is missing from my client's tray. ... If there had been a discrepancy, it would have been discovered right then," he added.

"Someone scratched out $456 and put in $256," said Gold, who believes the "fives" in each number are identical and written by the same person.

The attorney alleges that one of the two ticket-takers made the change and possibly stole the $200 -- not his client.

"One of them made the alteration," Gold said.

Ritz, the superintendent, couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

Detective Jeremy Draper conducted several interviews after police received the theft complaint Feb. 28. According to his report, which cites the video, the suspect counted the money from the money box and she folded the cash she earlier placed to the left of the box "and then placed it in her pocket."

Ritz made a finding in which he recommended the school board terminate the employee. Citing what the suspect and her attorney said during a March 3 pre-disciplinary meeting, Ritz wrote he found the woman "did take approximately $200 from the gate receipts at a Willard City School District event ... without permission to do so on Feb. 14, 2014."

The woman turned in her resignation/retirement letter March 7. In the letter, she said she isn't making any "admission of guilt or wrongdoing with respect to the school district's investigation."'

The Reflector asked Gold if his client's retirement was related directly to the theft allegation.

"Certainly," he said.

After the woman discussed the matter with Ritz, Gold said his client agreed to retire and in exchange, the school district wouldn't pursue the theft investigation any further. At the beginning of the school year, Gold said the school exerted some pressure on his client to retire due to her "years of experience" and school officials assumed she likely would retire, but she didn't decide until much later to stay.

"She was asked to unconditionally resign," Gold said, referring to the consequences of the investigation. "You don't work somewhere you're not wanted."

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