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Michigan woman acquitted of embezzling from auto body shop

When the prosecution says it has more than 100 pieces of evidence against someone charged with a white collar crime, your first reaction might be that the defendant must be guilty. But that assumes that the evidence actually proves the defendant’s guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors can present a mountain of documents and other evidence to the jury, but if that mountain does not establish guilt, the jury’s duty is to find the defendant not guilty.

The jury in a Michigan embezzlement trial took just two hours recently to find the former employee of an auto body shop not guilty, despite examining more than 100 exhibits presented by the prosecution. Afterward, the defendant’s attorney said that his client should never have been charged in the first place, and that the verdict showed that “the evidence wasn’t there” that the defendant had taken up to $24,000 from her employer.

Prosecutors had claimed that the woman routinely skimmed money that came in from customers. However, the defense argued that several people at the shop, including the married couple that owns the place, could have taken the money. On the stand, the husband was often evasive under questioning, the defense attorney told the jury, while his client answered most questions put to her.

Perhaps the most damning weakness in the prosecution’s case was that the customers whose payments were partially embezzled were never contacted. Some of these customers might have served as witnesses to what happened, but none of them were called to testify.

White collar charges can involve complicated evidence, such as financial records. But once the evidence is knit into an understandable narrative, the story may make clear that there is not sufficient proof to find the defendant guilty.

Source: Daily Mining Gazette, “Defendant found not guilty,” Garrett Neese, May 23, 2014

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