Prosecutor offers deal in foodbank embezzlement
HUNTINGTON -- A plea deal is in the works to resolve an embezzlement case involving the alleged theft of $23,700 from the Huntington Area Food Bank, an agency now known as the Facing Hunger Foodbank.
Leigh Anne Zappin, the food bank's former executive director, is charged with a single count of embezzlement and eight counts of forgery and uttering.
Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson said in court Thursday that attorneys had agreed to switch Thursday's motion hearing to that of a plea hearing, however entry of the plea was delayed Thursday because Zappin said she needed more time to review the agreement. Ferguson scheduled both sides to return May 5. He initially said it would be set for plea, but then described it as a status hearing.
Defense attorney Joshua Martin, of Charleston, spoke briefly after court. He did not take issue with Ferguson's review of recent developments, only adding that Zappin's defense team is trying to determine what's in her best interest.
Thursday's hearing was scheduled for attorneys to argue a defense motion to dismiss the more than year-old indictment.
Special prosecutor Kevin Lawson did not disclose terms of the agreement, but said he believes it will make all entities involved financially whole.
Zappin's defense alleged the indictment was flawed in November. They cited the involvement of assistant prosecutor Jason Spears, who served on the food bank's Board of Directors when he signed a grand jury subpoena pertaining to the case.
The defense also suggested the indictment was part of an adversarial relationship between the families of Zappin and former county prosecutor Chris Chiles, although that argument has taken a back seat to Spears' involvement since Chiles begrudgingly withdrew his office from the case in late November.
Zappin, who cited medical reasons when she resigned in late September 2012, started at the food bank as part of community service for a prior embezzlement conviction. It was one of two prior judgments that she took money from an employer.
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