Loeo withdraws guilty plea; goes to trial in December
Margaret Loeo withdrew a guilty plea and will go to trial in December after Judge Michael Gibbons ruled Tuesday afternoon a plea agreement was void due to misconduct by the District Attorney’s office.
Loeo’s attorneys, Robert Bruce Lindsay and William Routsis, filed the motion Monday afternoon to withdraw the guilty plea because a letter from a Douglas County Sheriff’s investigator violated the plea agreement.
Loeo, 23, of Sacramento, is charged with obtaining money under false pretenses from 82-year-old Anthony Brusca of Stateline. The sentence for the felony is automatically doubled because the victim is over 65 years of age. She pleaded guilty in Douglas County District Court Aug. 25.
Brusca claimed Loeo and two co-defendants bilked him out of $250,000. The other two pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges after they returned $110,000 to the victim.
They also agreed to pay another $25,000 to Brusca within two years.
Loeo’s attorneys said Tuesday the plea bargain was based on a straight guilty plea from Loeo and $10,000 in restitution to be paid to Brusca without a recommendation from Deputy District Attorney Alan Buttell on sentencing.
Routsis said a letter from Detective Tim Minister of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office to the court asking the judge to impose the maximum sentence invalidated the agreement.
n No ostrich. “Minister, as a member of the law enforcement, is a direct agent for the district attorney,” Routsis said. “He (Buttell) can’t stand like an ostrich with his head in the sand and say he doesn’t know about it. I don’t think I should even have to argue this is a breach.”
Buttell argued the cases Routsis cited in his argument did not apply to this motion.
“The defendant’s argument, while impassioned and full of superlatives, is not appropriate in this case,” he said.
Gibbons said he had no choice but to rule in favor of the defense. He said he was shocked when he first read Minister’s letter.
“It is clear to the court there is a violation of the plea agreement. The district attorney’s office and the sheriff’s office are aligned as one entity. I don’t think it was done intentionally, but it did happen,” Gibbons said. “It is very unfortunate. I’ve never set aside a plea and in 13 years I have only seen it happen extremely infrequently. But the court has no other reasonable choice in the case.”
At that point, the judge said proceeding could go four directions: the defense could re-negotiate a plea agreement with Buttell; withdraw the guilty plea and plead innocent; go ahead with sentencing and Gibbons would have to disregard the letter from Minister; or go before another judge for sentencing and the letter would be removed from the record before the sentencing.
Routsis said he felt the only choice the defense had was to plead not guilty and go to trial and Gibbons accepted the new plea.
The issue then was addressed whether $10,000 paid to Brusca would be returned to Loeo.
“We are entitled to have the money back because we intend to prove her innocence,” Routsis said.
n Give the money back. Gibbons asked Brusca if the money was available and then he ordered the money returned to the court clerk by the end of the week.
He said he would have to make a decision later if the money would be returned to Loeo.
“I won’t order the money returned to her because it is not appropriate at this time,” Gibbons said.
Routsis again argued for the bail to be reduced and the judge set it at $100,000 cash only.
Gibbons said the bail had to cover any possible restitution. The Division of Parole and Probation has asked for $96,908 in restitution.
Routsis continued to argue with Gibbons for a lower bail as Loeo asked, “Please, your honor?”
“You shouldn’t be punishing her before she’s had her day in court,” Routsis said. The judge refused their pleas.
Trial was set for Dec. 15. Routsis said he will attempt to get a change of venue to move the case to Reno because of pre-trial publicity.
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