Additional witnesses testified in Department 4 of the Yolo County Superior Court in the case involving Fourth and Hope’s former executive director, Leona Jull, on Wednesday.
Defendant Leona Jull is charged with felony theft of over $30,000 from Woodland’s Fourth and Hope, a local homeless shelter. The defendant served as the former executive director of the Woodland shelter and is accused of allegedly spending over $17,000 in unauthorized gas transactions and over $13,000 in unauthorized personal transactions.
On Wednesday morning, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McHugh called upon five additional witnesses, beginning with witness Antonio Ojeda. Due to Mr. Ojeda’s difficulty with understanding English, he was accompanied by a court interpreter.
Mr. Ojeda worked as a repairman for Fourth and Hope and was directly under Jull’s supervision. She had given him a company card and allowed him to make purchases pertaining to the maintenance of the organization’s facilities. When asked if there were any tasks that the defendant asked him to do outside the organization, Ojeda told the court that she requested him to fix her front door, a repair that cost about $200 in supplies and tools.
Next to the stand was Michelle Myrick, former housing director of the homeless shelter. When the witness admitted to bouts of nervousness prior and during her short testimony, DDA McHugh raised questions about whether the witness truly wished to testify. According to the witness, 10 years of friendship had made her feel uneasy about testifying in court.
During cross-examination, the defense questioned the witness on the known policies of company credit card usage by employees. Attorney Robbin Coker began by asking if the witness obtained a company credit card and if she had ever used that card for gas. When the witness indicated that she obtained a company card that she used “many a time” for gas, the defense questioned if those times were ever for her own personal vehicles, to which the witness stated, “Only if going to training.”
Defense Attorney Coker’s inquiry about Fourth and Hope’s annual Christmas celebrations, and her client’s role in often buying extra gifts for guests at the celebration, increased the defendant’s credibility when the witness stated that oftentimes the defendant bought extra gifts in an effort to eliminate any possibility of someone not receiving any.
After the cross-examination, Ms. McHugh made an effort to raise inquires on the ethics of the case when she repeatedly asked the witness if she would ever buy a list of items the defendant is accused of purchasing with company money. When asked if she ever used the shelter’s money to complete car examinations including oil changes and tire rotations, the witness stated that she would only use Fourth and Hope money for mileage reimbursement because, “mileage should cover” all expenses needed and nothing more, to fully reimburse. Only after McHugh had finished questioning the witness in repeat fashion about coffee machine, underwear, Direct TV, furniture, and restaurant purchases did the witness state that she would often ask the defendant for permission to use the company card and that she had never used company money to purchase those items.
The next witness called on behalf of the prosecution was the Vice Chairperson for the Board of Directors, Robert Partlow. His duties consisted of overseeing all activities at Fourth and Hope. During his testimony he admitted to taking employees out to lunch, stressing the importance of rewarding the organization’s employees and their hard work. However, when confronted with Jull’s multiple restaurant receipts in a single day, Partlow agreed that it was excessive.
Wrapping up her examination, DDA McHugh finished with the same series of questions she left the previous witness with, regarding the purchases of the coffee, underwear, Direct TV, and furniture – all of which Partlow deemed inappropriate for the organization to buy.
The people’s fourth witness, Amber Tanberg, a former board member of Fourth and Hope, stated that when she took her children in 2011 to the shelter for volunteer work, the defendant asked her to lunch in an effort to employ her at the company. The witness stated that, during her two years on the board, board packets were prepared beforehand and each member was required to read the material prior to the meetings. While the witness mentioned details about the contents of the board packets, she confessed to often being confused about the acronyms used during the meetings. The witness mentioned how, often when she was confused, the defendant would explain how money from a certain organization in donations should elicit certain responses from the shelter.
When asked when it is appropriate for an employee to use the company credit card, the witness stated that employees could use the company cards for “business expenses” and that there was “no policy written” for card usage. Although there was no oversight on finances, the witness pointed out that the defendant was given a clear budget and that if adjustments were necessary they would be reviewed by the finance committee through credit card statements. In the final parts of the testimony, the witness meekly explained that the only things that stood out to her were Target, bait shop, and meal charges to the company cards.
During cross-examination, the defense explained that the witness was approved by a board before becoming employed. When asked about the absence of a credit card policy in the bylaws, the witness claimed that there was “no credit card policy [that was] enforced,” adding quickly that she “did not know,” after contradicting her previous statement that to her knowledge she did not know of a policy. Toward the end of her testimony, McHugh asked the witness to explain “stay in your lane,” a “don’t get involved in operations” policy that encouraged employees to focus on raising money and becoming ambassadors rather than involving themselves with operations.
The people’s fifth and final witness, Doug Zeck, the executive president board director, confessed to having no desire to testify against a close family friend. When asked if he knew the number and types of cars owned by Fourth and Hope, the witness knowledgeably described the colors and models of the cars owned by the shelter. While the witness claimed that he was “not aware” of any policy on personal expenses involving company cards, he did understand that there was a mileage reimbursement policy for work-related activities.
When the deputy district attorney questioned the witness about the defendant’s salary, the defense counsel objected to relevance of the topic. According to the DDA, the question is relevant because it “goes to her [the defendant’s] state of mind.” Once Judge Rosenberg sustained the objection by the defense counsel, McHugh questioned the witness about Chris Gutierrez, a former Fourth and Hope employee who raised concerns about the defendant’s spending. According to the witness, Gutierrez spent time traveling with the defendant for training purposes. After six to seven months of training, the defendant declared Gutierrez unfit for the job.
Following the end of the prosecution’s witnesses, several stipulations involving purchases made at Walmart and Orchard Supply Hardware as well as AAA documents were read to the jury as evidence.
After the break, defense counsel began calling its own witnesses. Robbin Coker first attempted to recall Detective Elliott to the stand, but he was not available at that moment. Coker then proceeded to her second witness instead.
Janice Critchlow testified that she knew Jull since 2002 or 2004. Critchlow had been a homeless services coordinator at the time, working with non-profits, and encountered Jull at a conference in the Bay Area. However, Critchlow had left that job and was now a contractor with Yolo County social services. In her current job, Critchlow was responsible for writing grants and providing coordination for them. Many of these grants were sponsored by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), so she obtained information from HUD and consolidated grant applications for local non-profits.
Coker asked Critchlow several question about Jull’s abilities and characters, and McHugh objected to these questions. Judge Rosenberg agreed and the questions were not asked.
She testified that Jull worked on various projects in her position as a director. She stated that Jull was innovative and always looking for ways to help the homeless, putting in a great deal of work and trying to get a good deal for her agency. All in all, the witness testified to the defendant’s good character and dedication to her organization.
However, under McHugh’s cross-examination of the defense witness, Critchlow admitted that she did not know what things were bought at Fourth and Hope. Grant statements would list expenses but not spending per item. Critchlow only knew how things were spent through the annual expenses reports as part of the grants.
McHugh then listed a number of items and asked Critchlow whether her opinion of Jull would change if she told Critchlow that Jull had bought the following items: furniture at Jull’s home, AAA membership, an airtube, $1000 of repairs, a $600 sofa, clothing for her boyfriend, and repairs to the door of her house. Critchlow admitted that her opinion of Jull would change if this were true, but did not say that she could believe McHugh’s statements.
However, Critchlow’s opinions of the defendant did not change when McHugh asked about how Fourth and Hope had little to no resources for beds for homeless children. Critchlow explained that Fourth and Hope did not have beds for infants; the rooms there had a dining area which was converted to a bedroom at night. It was not a great situation, Critchlow explained, but that was how Fourth and Hope worked. When it came time to being kicked out, Critchlow explained that Fourth and Hope was not a 24-hour shelter and that temporary residents needed to leave. When McHugh asked whether Critchlow’s opinion of Jull would change if it were true that Jull was spending money while infants were kicked out of the shelter, and Critchlow explained that her opinion of Jull would change, but not because of the infants. In short, Critchlow did not see the wrongful spending as being related to the infants.
Following Janice Critchlow was Detective Gregory Elliott. Elliott was tasked with investigating Fourth and Hope and had a warrant to search the facility. Though he could not remember what the affidavit of the warrant specified, he did remember some of the things he looked for. Coker then asked him about whether he found several things at Jull’s house after he first confirmed the location was Jull’s house. The items included: games, tools, camping equipment, a marine battery, a shop vacuum, storage racks, and clothing. Of the first three items, nothing desired was found. The marine battery found did not match the receipts that he had. He was not looking for the storage racks when he found them. Elliott then said he did not know if the clothing at Jull’s house matched the clothing that Jull supposedly paid with the company card.
McHugh asked Elliott if the police searched storage facilities or vehicles, or the residences of Jull’s family and friends. Elliott said the police searched the vehicle in Jull’s house but did not find the desired items; the other places were not searched.
Serving as the final witness of the day was Jeff Satterberg. Satterberg is a retired engineer and chaplain for the Woodland Police Department and the US Border Patrol. He was familiar with Jull, who happened to be his daughter, and explained that he had worked with Fourth and Hope since 1983 when it was founded as Yolo Wayfarer. Except for a part between 2002 and 2007, Jeff volunteered at Fourth and Hope since its inception.
He explained that he picked up food and furniture for the shelter from various businesses such as Raley’s, Starbucks, and Costco, and was reimbursed for doing so. When there was too much food, Satterberg would drop the food off at centers for the needy and the sexually abused. He then explained how he was reimbursed for all the travel that he did on a daily basis. The line of questioning then ended and court ended for the day.
The trial is scheduled to continue tomorrow.