The attorneys in the Dawndee Rossy case made their final arguments in court Tuesday morning. The case now goes to appointed Judge Philip Argento who set July 28 as the date for his decision.
At the end of the session, District Attorney Thomas Hardy asked that Rossy be remanded into custody, stating the former County Health and Human Services supervisor represented a flight risk.
“It’s astonishing this is raised at this point,” said Rossy’s attorney David Evans.
Argento denied Hardy’s request.
Rossy is charged with embezzling $1.5 million in welfare benefits.
During his closing arguments, Evans zeroed in on that amount in his defense of Rossy. “She showed remorse when confronted,” Evans said.
“She said ‘I’m a bad person; I did bad things.’ But what’s the scope of the evidence, the range of activity presented in court?”
Evans went on to argue the prosecution did not prove “wrongful taking” in the amount of $1.5 million. “The evidence doesn’t show that.” He conceded that a link between Rossy and some “take” was proven and his client admitted guilt, but not on that scale.
Witnesses in the case testified how the complex computer systems worked in Rossy’s department. Evans focused on the lack of a direct link in the computer trail between Rossy and fraudulent withdrawals on the system’s Electronic Benefit Transfer cards.
In response to a question during a brief recess, Evans said the link had to be between the issuance of benefits and the “take” as opposed to a link between Rossy and authorization or approval of the benefits.
“The government’s responsibility is to show proof in each charge,” Evans said in court. “The documents don’t back up the charges.”
He went on to say that while guilt was proven in some charges, the prosecution concluded Rossy must have done it all. “The government overcharged this case,” he said.
Evans also argued that there was no evidence of the Rossy’s “lavish lifestyle.”
“You can hide hundreds of thousands (over the time period) but not $1.5 million,” Evans said.
He also questioned the fact Rossy’s office wasn’t secured until the day after her interview with Bishop police officers and the DA’s investigator, noting that potentially incriminating evidence was in full view, piled up on her desk. “Is that a coincidence?” he asked.
Hardy’s closing statements sandwiched Evans’.
“The evidence shows Dawndee Rossy created phony case files, loaded money on the EBT cards….. and used those funds for her own benefit,” Hardy said.
He went over the videos showing the Rossys making withdrawals that corresponded with fraudulent EBT withdrawals.
“She was the only one with access to these accounts,” Hardy said.
He noted that a total of $1,567,496.53 was withdrawn on 37 accounts stemming from the “phony case files.”
Hardy said: “We heard three witnesses testify that as the case files were closed down, not one person came forward and asked, ‘Where are my benefits?’ ”
As a rebuttal to Evans’ arguments, Hardy said the defense’s focus on issuance or approval of payments
was a “red herring.”
“Either is acceptable as evidence,” Hardy said. “There is no evidence any other employee was involved.”
Hardy also said: “It is our duty to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, not beyond an imaginary doubt. The cases were opened and managed by Dawndee Rossy.”
While some of the fund issuances were made when Rossy was not in the office, Hardy said many fund deposits were done automatically.
In response to Evans’ statement the Rossys did not live a lavish lifestyle, Hardy maintained the prosecution was under no obligation to prove motive or use of funds.
He did say that between August 2011 and December 2012, $159,000 ran through the Rossys’ account, during a period her salary was $31,000 a year.
On the first day of testimony, in late February, Hardy offered a plea deal that would send Rossy to prison for eight years. She turned it down.
Argento reminded the attorneys there was still time to negotiate, asking them “to consider resolving the issue over the money taken.”