By Brinda Kalita
VENTURA, CA – A woman’s charges were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors after her defense attorney shared the woman’s life story in Ventura County Superior Court this week—the judge still rejected a non-jail proposal after the emotional plea by her attorney.
The accused (her name is redacted because the charges are now not felonies) was originally charged with grand theft after stealing from both a Kohl’s and a Columbia outlet store.
A motion was filed by Christina Vanarelli to reduce the charges to misdemeanors and to grant the accused diversion, which would require her to complete community service time rather than being put into jail.
“Diversions are given to offenders who are minimally involved in crime and maximally involved in wanting to reform…the decision to divert is given on the in-depth appraisal of the background and personality of the defendant,” Vanarelli stated.
Attorney Vanarelli then shared the defendant’s background. The defendant had grown up unsupervised because her parents were drug addicts that were in and out of jail.
“While her siblings followed the path of her parents, the defendant did not. She stayed in school, graduated with a 4.0 GPA, and has only one more semester to complete to receive her AA.” Attorney Vanarelli emphasized the accused’s good character.
Attorney Vanarelli then shared that the accused had a daughter and was raising her without any assistance, although, despite having a job, it was becoming difficult for her to cover the costs of her home, food, and clothing for her and her daughter.
This ultimately led to the accused stealing from the two stores. However, Attorney Vanarelli added that once her client was caught, all of the merchandise was immediately returned.
Additionally, even the accused ended up admitting her guilt for stealing the clothes in letters to Judge Bruce A. Young, noting, “I have failed my daughter in so many ways.”
Attorney Vanarelli then emphasized once again the good character of the accused by adding that the letters revealed heartfelt remorse for stealing, substantial introspection and respect for the court system.
Attorney Vanarelli also underscored how these felony charges and serving time in jail could drastically affect the accused’s life, and could cause her to commit worse crimes in the future.
Judge Young noted that this incident was the only one on the accused’s record.
District Attorney Amy Sweeney stated that she felt that the request was procedurally improper, and that Attorney Vanarelli should have requested this earlier in the case.
After hearing arguments from both sides, Judge Young made the decision to decline the diversion request.
“The defendant was not under 18 years old. She knew what she was doing, for the reasons that she did it,” said Judge Young, who did reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor, and dismissed two other charges against the accused after hearing the defendant’s story.
He then sentenced her to 60 days of custody time with allowance to be released for work and two credit days.
The accused is also banned from any Kohls and Columbia stores in the county for 12 months.