Appellate court reduces theft restitution by more than $62K

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A man who stole nearly $100,000 from his Ripley County employer will only have to pay about $36,000 in restitution after the Indiana Court of Appeals determined the trial court erred in ordering the man to pay back the full amount. But the court also upheld the man’s 15-year theft sentence, finding it was not inappropriate.

Steven Linville worked for Laughery Valley AG for 16 years, delivering fuel, oil, washer fluid and antifreeze to customers. But after Linville admitted to issuing false receipts in order to steal $98,310.30 from Laughery Valley, the state filed 34 counts against him for 17 instances of misconduct occurring between October 2014 and 2015.

Linville pleaded guilty to three counts of theft and three counts of delivering a false sales document, all as Level 6 felonies, and sentencing discretion was left to the Ripley Circuit Court. The agreement also left the amount of restitution Linville would have to pay to the trial courts’ discretion.

The trial court ultimately sentenced Linville to an aggregate of 15 years, with three years suspended to probation, and ordered him to pay the full $98,310.30 in restitution to Laughery Valley. In its findings, the trial judge noted Linville was charged with misconduct “within a very narrow window of time,” but “other thefts, not brought within this case, were committed.”

After the denial of his motion to correct error, Linville appealed in Steven Linville v. State of Indiana, 18A-CR-983, arguing first that his 15-year sentence was inappropriate. But the Court of Appeals disagreed, with Judge Melissa May agreeing with the trial court that Linville committed a “two-prong violation of trust” – the trust of Laughery Valley and the trust of its customers.

As to Linville’s character, “the trial court explicitly found ‘it appears that the Defendant is more remorseful for humiliating other persons and himself than he is remorseful for stealing from the victim,’” May wrote. “Furthermore, while Linville has no criminal history, he spent more than a year stealing repeatedly from his employer, creating false documents to facilitate his commission of theft, and involving his uncle, who owned Bob’s Service Station, in his scheme.” 

But the appellate panel agreed with Linville that his restitution order was too high, noting Linville’s counsel told the trial court he needed additional discovery “to understand how the State intended to demonstrate the amounts of restitution it would be requesting, if that amount would be greater than the amounts alleged in the charging affidavits… .

“At no point did counsel agree that Linville should be or would be responsible for the money alleged to have been stolen during all seventeen thefts. ’The trial court cannot order a defendant to pay restitution for crimes to which he did not plead guilty, has not been convicted, or did not agree to pay as restitution,’” May wrote, referencing Dull v. State, 44 N.E.3d 831 (Ind. Ct. App. 2015)

“…Because Linville did not agree to pay restitution for all seventeen thefts that were charged, he could not be ordered to pay $98,310.30 in restitution when he was convicted of only six crimes,” the judge continued. “…Linville’s counsel did concede the restitution order for those six crimes should be $35,729.00, based on the amounts of the checks written by Bob’s Service Station to Linville on those dates (of the charged thefts).”

Thus, the case was remanded for the trial court to enter a new order requiring Linville to pay Laughery Valley $35,729 in restitution.

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