Former home inspector won’t be prosecuted for alleged ring theft in Mandeville
Posted by rrhoden June 12, 2007 4:20PM
By Bruce Hamilton
St. Tammany bureau
A home inspector accused of stealing a $12,000 ring from a Mandeville house will not be tried for theft because the St. Tammany Parish district attorney’s office had already agreed not to prosecute him when it pressed charges.
Sterling Cardon, 53, originally was booked with felony theft in August 2003 after a Mandeville woman said he stole her diamond and sapphire ring. The district attorney placed Cardon in a diversion program for first-time offenders.
But after Cardon pleaded no contest in September 2004 to another theft charge in a different jurisdiction, prosecutors reinstated the case. His attorney appealed, and the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered that his motion to toss out the charge be granted.
“It certainly was the right result,” said Cardon’s attorney, Robert C. Stern, adding that his client never violated the terms of his diversion agreement. “A contract is a contract is a contract.”
The ring’s owner, Heather Conklin, said she noticed it was missing just minutes after Cardon left her home, which he had been inspecting. The ring was in a closed, leather box that held other jewelry and rested against a mirror, she said.
Cardon said the ring accidentally fell into his work bag after he received an upsetting phone call and threw the bag against the wall, knocking over a dish. He allegedly returned the upended jewelry to the dish and didn’t realize the ring was in his bag until police contacted him.
Conklin’s listed phone number is disconnected, and she could not be reached for this article. She previously called Cardon’s story “laughable” and protested his participation in the diversion program as a “slap on the wrist.”
After Cardon signed the contract to enter the diversion program, he pleaded no contest in Jefferson Parish to a reduced charge of misdemeanor theft for stealing a Rolex watch worth several thousands of dollars during a home inspection in February 2002.
For that charge, he received a six-month suspended sentence, was put on six months of probation and was ordered to pay for cleaning and repairing the watch. His former business partner, Carrie Booker, told police he gave it to her as a birthday gift.
St. Tammany prosecutors said that plea violated the terms of his agreement, which includes a provision against committing any other criminal acts, and they revived the case against him.
The 1st Circuit Court of Appeal denied Stern’s appeal, but the high court granted it unanimously earlier this year. “The defendant did not violate the law anew or participate in new criminal conduct after he signed the agreement not to prosecute,” its ruling said.
“The language of the agreement, with regard to its prohibition of committing a ‘new’ offense is, at least, ambiguous as to a guilty plea entered after the signing of the agreement to criminal behavior which occurred prior to the signing of the agreement.”
The district attorney dropped the charge May 22. Spokesman Rick Wood said Cardon has fulfilled the requirements of the diversion program, including performing 36 hours of community service, paying a supervisory fee and returning the ring.
Meanwhile, the former Chalmette resident pleaded no contest in March 2005 to a misdemeanor charge of attempting to receive a stolen $5,000 boat trailer in St. Bernard Parish.
He was given a suspended sentence of one year in jail as part of a plea agreement, and he also was ordered to make restitution of $5,000 to Booker, his former business partner. The state board of home inspectors revoked his license.
(Bruce Hamilton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (985) 898-4827.)
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