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Defense: Plea likely in fire department embezzlement

Jan. 22, 2013 @ 11:00 PM

HUNTINGTON — A Huntington woman charged with embezzling $88,000 from a local fire department wants to plead guilty to something, but questions remain as attorneys try to resolve the case.

Mary Elizabeth Taylor appeared Tuesday before Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson.

The case concerns $88,065.42 stolen from the Barboursville Volunteer Fire Department. It was taken between July 1, 2009, and May 10, 2011, a time when Taylor served as bookkeeper.

"We're going to plea to something," said Virginia Weed, Taylor's public defender. "We're not going to go to trial."

Weed questioned an offer from prosecutors. It would require Taylor's plea to felony embezzlement and order restitution as her punishment. The attorney called full restitution "unrealistic" and said repayment should not be an issue since insurance already covered the fire department's loss. She said perhaps Taylor could pay the deductible.

"We're kind of between the proverbial rock and a hard place," Weed told the judge.

Ferguson offered to resolve the matter with a trial date. Weed said that would not be necessary.

"If she stole that much money, she should have been thinking about 'How am I going to pay it back eventually,'" the judge said. "If she stole $70,000 to $90,000, I'm not going to have a whole lot of sympathy for her."

Weed responded by asking Ferguson to schedule the matter for a plea hearing. He did so for Feb. 25.

The public defender, responding to another of the judge's questions, said a mental evaluation found her client to be competent to stand trial, but with extenuating circumstances to her mental state as opposed to her culpability.

Barboursville Police Chief Mike Coffey said last year the investigation revealed misuse of fire department credit cards and the improper issuance of checks from its account.

Taylor had been employed at the department for about six years before her termination in July 2011. She had worked as the department's full-time secretary.

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD.

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