A Delaware trial court refuses to overturn a jury’s verdict or award a new trial in the case of a trustee convicted of stealing trust funds, finding that a reasonable jury could have found that nearly $300,000 in unaccounted for cash withdrawals from the trust were purloined by the trustee. State v. Wilson (Del.Super.Ct., No. 1507000321, July 14, 2016).
Letoni Wilson was the trustee of a special needs trust established for the benefit of her son, Tirese. During the first 22 months of the trust’s existence, Ms. Wilson withdrew more than $1 million in trust funds and was criminally charged with theft of $100,000 or more from the trust. At trial, a forensic accountant’s report showed that after legal expenses and fees, Ms. Wilson properly spent $361,563.30 on a home, a car and furniture for her son. The report also showed that Ms. Wilson improperly used $36,823.51 for herself. Finally, the report listed $288,606.07 in cash withdrawals that could not be accounted for. The prosecution accused Ms. Wilson of stealing the cash and the $36,823.51 in improper payments. Ms. Wilson claimed that the records showing how the cash was used were destroyed in a flood, and her son’s guardian ad litem testified that she believed that the missing money was used for Tirese’s benefit.
After initially returning a confusing note to the judge, the jury eventually convicted Ms. Wilson of theft of $100,000 or more. Ms. Wilson asked the court to overrule the jury’s verdict, contending that the evidence could not support the conclusion that she stole the $288,606.07, and she also requested a new trial, claiming that the jury’s verdict was an improper compromise verdict.
The Delaware Superior Court denies both motions. The court finds that “[t]he State’s proof that this $288,606.51 was stolen from the trust is more circumstantial, but not insufficient for a reasonable jury to conclude that it was stolen. As noted, Wilson was required to account for ‘every penny’ in her accounting to the Chancery Court. She failed to account for $288,606.51. The jury was entitled to conclude that her explanation for that failure — that all of the documents supporting the expenditure of those funds were lost when the basement flooded — was unworthy of belief.”
To read the full text of the court’s decision, go to: http://courts.delaware.gov/Opinions/Download.aspx?id=243750