On the afternoon of July 24, 2014, several witnesses were called in the case of Leona Jull. The defendant is charged with felony theft of $30,000 from Woodland’s Fourth and Hope, a homeless shelter. The defendant was the former executive director at Fourth and Hope.
After a short recess, the defense called their witness to the stand: Yolo County’s Chief Public Defender, Tracie Olson.
When Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McHugh asked Ms. Olson how long she had known Jull, she responded, “It seems for a long time. There’s a lot of interaction between me and Fourth and Hope.”
Ms. Olson further stated that, after Assembly Bill (AB) 109 passed, she and Ms. Jull had more interactions.
Through (AB) 109, no inmates in state prison have been or will be transferred to county jails or released early.
Ms. Olson further stated that her conversations with Ms. Jull were mostly about how they were going to rehabilitate inmates.
“She wanted to talk to me as CCP member… She wanted to see if she could get supplies to open a toxicology lab.”
As DDA McHugh changed the direction of her interrogation, Ms. Olson became more defensive.
DDA McHugh asked Ms. Olson to describe Leona Jull’s character, and Ms. Olson had a lot of positive things to say about the defendant.
“She thinks outside the box a lot. She was trying to make that organization as best as she can do.”
DDA McHugh inquired, “If I told you Ms. Jull bought a boat battery with Fourth and Hope’s money, would that change your opinion of her?
“Just based on that information? No. I’m a defense attorney. I need evidence.”
“If I told you Ms. Jull used Fourth and Hope’s money to buy Direct TV. Would that change your opinion of her?”
“I think I’m going to give you the same answer,” Ms. Olson responded.
Judge Rosenberg interjected, “I think she’s going to ask you the same questions.”
DDA McHugh asked another similar question and Ms. Olson responded, “I need context.”
Jull could be seen shaking her head in disagreement.
There were no further questions from Ms. McHugh; Ms. Jull’s attorney, Ms. Coker, also had no questions.
After Ms. Olson was dismissed, Ms. Coker communicated that her next witness was not present. While they called Ms. Coker’s witness to make herself present in court, a witness for the DDA was called in to testify.
Before the court, Carmen Soriano testified that she had been Human Resources Director at Fourth and Hope since May of 2012.
DDA McHugh then asked, “Do you have an opinion of Ms. Jull?”
“I don’t know,” Ms. Soriano hesitantly responded.
Moreover, when Ms. Soriano was asked about donations being sorted out by staff members, she testified that some staff members took some things home. —“What they wanted. Ms. Jull was aware of this.”
As DDA McHugh questioned Ms. Soriano about the Board of Directors’ request for a credit card policy from Ms. Jull, she testified that Ms. Jull admitted to not complying with their request.
“She would issue the credit cards without the board’s involvement…she said she was going to issue us the credit cards without the credit card policy.”
Ms. Soriano also added that Ms. Jull said, “The board may be upset about this, but I will do it anyway.”
There was no cross by the defense.
Rebecca Robinson was the next witness for the DDA.
“To your knowledge, did Fourth and Hope have issues with having no food?” Ms. McHugh inquired.
“No,” Ms. Robinson responded.
“Did Ms. Jull ask for a bonus?”
“Yes. We were having a hard time paying the bills. And at the end of the meeting, we were asked by Leona for a $5,000 bonus for vacation… She got a $1,000 bonus. She wasn’t pleased.”
Upon further questioning, Ms. Robinson stated that the shelter had extra food and that “Ms. Jull let it go to waste. Many times bread products rotted on the shelves.”
“Today I’m very disappointed,” Ms. Robinson remarked.
During cross by the defense, Ms. Coker asked, “Do you recall when Ms. Jull demanded a bonus in 2009?”
“I said asked, not demanded.”
“Are you aware that Ms. Jull was responsible for 5 million in capital funding for families?” Ms. Coker queried.
“I’m not aware of that. It took a lot of people. There was a lot of grant writing,” Ms. Robinson responded.
After Ms. Robinson was dismissed, Amanda Taneerg was called to testify.
Ms. Taneerg nervously answered questions.
“I…my opinion…I’m conflicted on my opinion…to say that I like Leona is an understatement. I admire Leona more than most people I’ve known…The thing is that Leona is the hardest worker…She’s the smartest…She was incredibly good at her job…I trust her implicitly…The conflict is clearly why we are here.”
Ms. Taneerg stated that the “conflict” was “the information that people were bringing to the board.”
After Ms. Taneerg was dismissed, Michelle Washington was called by the defense.
Ms. Washington admitted to being employed at Fourth and Hope from January 2007 to January 2014; her final position at Fourth and Hope was Housing Director.
When Ms. Coker asked if she knew Carmen Soriano, Ms. Washington stated that Soriano was a coworker.
According to Ms. Washington, when donations arrived at Fourth and Hope, the Housing Department would go in first. Second would be the shelter. And things left over would go to Walter’s House.
Ms. Coker further questioned Ms. Washington about Carmen Soriano.
“I found Carmen to have superiority issues. She tended to belittle people. It was very difficult working with her.”
Before Ms. Washington was dismissed from the courtroom, she stated several things about Ms. Jull’s character: “She is someone I aspire to be… creative… loyal… brings out the best in people. She is someone I admire.”
There was no further evidence and there were no more witnesses.
Judge Rosenberg told the jury that three important things would occur tomorrow: he would instruct them on the law, the attorneys would present their closing arguments, and the jury would deliberate.
Judge Rosenberg told the jury to keep an open mind and not to discuss what they’ve seen or heard.
The attorneys will present their closing arguments at 9:00 am tomorrow in Department Four.