COA affirms 20-year sentence for woman who stole from employer

A decades-long sentence has been affirmed for a woman who stole personal items from her former employer after being told she wouldn’t receive back wages after the business went under.

When Dreama’s Restaurant in Wabash closed it doors, owner Candace Coe told two of her employees, including Jamie Webb, that she could not afford to pay them approximately one month’s worth of back wages. Based on Coe’s recommendation, Webb filed a “labor claim” for “payment of wages” totaling at $3,885.75.

While Coe was out of town in February 2019, Webb and her mother, who also worked at the restaurant, broke into Coe’s apartment and stole furniture, TVs and other household items. Coe returned when someone told her what happened, and police obtained a search warrant for Webb’s apartment. There, they found Coe’s belongings, consisting of two televisions, a DVD player, 50 DVDs, pictures, a jewelry box, a heater, a PlayStation 4, a mirror, some shelves and a microwave.

Webb was subsequently charged with Level 4 and Level 5 felony counts of burglary and Class A misdemeanor theft. During trial, Webb asserted her right not to testify but tried without success to enter into evidence an affidavit from an officer containing statements she had made to him during the search of her apartment. Specifically, the officer noted in the affidavit that Webb had indicated she had authorization from Coe’s ex-boyfriend to enter into Coe’s home and take certain property as compensation for Webb’s lost wages.

Webb maintained that she satisfied Evidence Rule (804)(a)’s unavailability criteria by “exercising her constitutional right not to testify against herself.”

Additionally, she alleged she was entitled to present her statement from the affidavit regarding consent under the hearsay exception for statements against interest as set forth in Evidence Rule 804(b)(3) because the statement was inculpatory and exculpatory — she admitted she “was there, but [she] had permission.”

The trial court, however, excluded the hearsay statement Webb wished to have admitted, finding it was not against her interest and thus was not admissible under Evidence Rule 804. Webb was ultimately convicted of Level 4 felony burglary and found to be a habitual offender, receiving an aggregate 20-year sentence with two years suspended to probation.

In affirming the trial court’s decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the state that “‘Webb is attempting to have her cake and eat it too,’ because her supposed statement against interest balances farther towards purely exculpatory rather than evenly exculpatory and inculpatory, and because she wishes to introduce an unsubstantiated hearsay claim without allowing the State a fair opportunity to cross-examine her about her claim of consent.”

The appellate court further declined to find that her sentence was inappropriate, noting that Webb’s actions were “clearly retaliatory in nature” and that “Webb’s actions demonstrate not a desperate need for immediate payment, but rather a continuing bitterness toward Coe.” It also cited her “continuing propensity toward criminal behavior.”

The case is Jamie R. Webb v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-2424.

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