Smelser attorney, DA's Office trying to reach settlement

September 18, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

The attorney for Brawley resident Teri Smelser — accused of embezzling about $400,000 from local service groups — and the District Attorney's Office are negotiating a settlement to the case.

During a pre-trial hearing Monday, Superior Court Judge Matias Contreras met with Deputy District Attorney Karla Davis and Smelser's attorney, Richard Strickland of El Centro, behind closed doors.

The meeting in the County Courthouse in El Centro lasted about a half hour before the parties emerged and announced the pre-trial hearing would continue Thursday.

After the meeting, Davis said there is a chance a settlement called a negotiated disposition could be reached. This morning Davis said she is "hopeful" talks will continue to focus on a settlement.


Strickland was unavailable for comment this morning.

Smelser, who prior to her arrest was involved in social organizations in Brawley and elsewhere in the county, was arrested Oct. 20 and has been out on bail since then.

She is accused of embezzling around $400,000 from those organizations of which she was a member, including the Cattle Call Rodeo Committee, the Pioneers' Museum cattlemen's gallery and All Saints Episcopal Church in Brawley.

She also is accused of handing out fraudulent grant deeds and there is a count against her of elder financial abuse.

Davis said Smelser has made some payments on the allegedly embezzled funds, but she declined to disclose how much Smelser has paid.

Davis said the DA's Office will argue that Smelser spend some time in custody.

"We are unwilling to enter into a probationary sentence," that would not include time in custody, Davis said.

Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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