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Toss plea deal, district says

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

The Smith River Community Service District is seeking to overturn the plea bargain of a man accused of stealing more than $200,000 from the district.

President Jim Floyd sent a letter to the Del Norte County Probation Department asking that a reduced plea, negotiated by District Attorney Mike Riese and defense attorney Rick McClendon, be disregarded.

"I want the Smith River community to know that the board of directors is doing everything that we can to see that justice is being done in this case," Floyd said yesterday.

Robert Martin Walker, 33, of Crescent City, pleaded guilty to grand theft and burglary in February. He is scheduled to be sentenced tomorrow.

Riese and McClendon did not immediately return messages yesterday.

Initially, Walker was charged with five counts of forgery, committing a crime while being a public officer, grand theft, second-degree burglary, possession of methamphetamine and possession of paraphernalia.

In the letter addressed to officer Jeff Wolsfeld, Floyd said that Walker caused severe financial damage to the district and has shown no remorse.

"It is our sincere and considered belief that the defendant is not sorry that he engaged in criminal conduct," Floyd wrote. "... He did not apologize for his criminal acts or in any way appear remorseful. He appears only to be sorry that he was caught and that he will be punished."

Floyd also accused Walker, who is out on bail, of vandalism to the property of one of the directors, alleging he used a vacuum cleaner to smash windows in a rental home.

In pleading guilty, Walker admitted to stealing more than $100,000. In February, Riese said the guilty plea presumes he will go to prison for a maximum of three years and that Walker could have only received four years had he been convicted at trial.

The thefts at the district happened between July 2, 2002 to Jan. 3, 2003, according to the service district's attorney Dohn Henion. Walker, who began working for the district in July 2001, served multiple functions at the office as part-time secretary, payroll clerk and office manager.

Henion said the district knew something was wrong last December when Chetco Federal Credit Union called and said an employee had two paychecks with the same number on them.

Walker allegedly forged the signatures of every director on the board — Duane "Sparky" Countess, Jim Floyd, Keith Sellers, Tim Reichlin and Ernie Silva — at different times last year.

During last November's election, Countess said the district held $800,000 in assets and was one of the largest liquid-asset districts in the county.

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