Three former Timpanogos Community Mental Health Center officials won't be going to trial after all as a result of their guilty pleas Wednesday to five felony counts each in connection with the center's $3.5 million scandal.
The defendants, who pleaded not guilty in February to a total of 117 felony counts, changed their pleas pursuant to negotiations with the state attorney general's office, which is prosecuting the case. Prosecutors have agreed to drop the other charges against the defendants.Fourth District Judge Ray M. Harding ordered the defendants - Glen R. Brown, the center's former director; Carl V. Smith, former specialty programs director; and Craig W. Stephens, former business manager - booked into the Utah County Jail following their Wednesday afternoon court appearance.
The defendants then were released on their own recognizance pending sentencing July 14.
Joseph Tesch, assistant attorney general, said he believes justice will be served as a result of the plea agreement. The Utah attorney general's office plans to see that the defendants pay for their crimes, he said.
Utah Attorney General Paul Van Dam said during a news conference Wednesday that prosecutors will ask the judge to sentence the three to 25 years in prison, the stiffest sentence possible.
The counts to which the men pleaded guilty are all third-degree felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Harding told the defendants, however, the court could order that they pay restitution on all counts against them, not just the five to which they pleaded guilty.
Following a lengthly investigation and report by the state's legislative auditor general, the defendants were charged last fall with making unauthorized contractural and credit-card expenditures during 1986 and 1987.
Personal expenditures to which the defendants pleaded guilty Wednesday, went for such items as shoes, clothing, auto repairs, tires, airline tickets, Club Med of New York, interior decorating, toys and a Disneyland visit.
Brown, 63, was charged with nine counts of misuse of public money and eight felony counts. The charges contend he misappropriated about $400,000 of the center's funding for his own use. Brown pleaded guilty to four counts of misusing public money and one count of theft.
Smith, 41, pleaded guilty to three counts of misusing public money, one count of theft and one count of signing a false income tax return. He originally was charged with 25 counts each of theft and misusing public money and one count of income tax evasion in which about $35,000 was misappropriated.
Stephens, 34, also pleaded guilty to three counts of misuse of public money, one count of theft and one count of filing a false income tax return in which approximately $60,000 was misappropriated. He originally was charged with 24 counts each of misuse of public money and theft and one count of income tax evasion.
"I know there's a side to the story that hasn't been told yet,", said Max Wheeler, Stephens' attorney. Mitigating circumstances will come to light once the defendants disclose all facts related to the scandal. Wheeler said. He said he hopes the men won't have to serve time in prison.
As part of the plea bargain, the defendants agreed to "accurately disclose the facts surrounding the operation of Timpanogos Mental Health Center" and to "testify truthfully in connection with any other person who may be charged in connection" with that operation.
Van Dam said the agreement requires all three to reveal how much money was taken and where the money went. He said he will make their explanations public, witholding any parts that might be used to file charges against other people.
"We feel that substantial justice has been done," Van Dam said Wednesday. "We believe we've accomplished everything that could have been accomplished had these cases gone to trial."
Stan Olsen, the chief prosecutor on the case, estimated Brown, Smith and Stephens stole a combined $3.4 million. However, Van Dam admitted, it is unlikely all the money will be recovered.