Well, it's finally happened. The phrase "As easy as taking candy from a baby" has met its match -- now that Paul Anthony D'Arcy of Onstead has been arraigned in the Adrian District Court for allegedly stealing from a Catholic religious charity.
The criminal complaint charges D'Arcy with embezzling close to $103,000.00 over the course of three years, a 20 year felony. Though the amount stolen will certainly stand as an aggravating factor at the criminal defendant's sentencing proceedings (if any), the crime of embezzlement in and of itself is even more pernicious than mere stealing. That is because the heart and soul of the crime of embezzlement involves a betrayal of trust by a fiduciary. Under current Michigan legal authority, such a person is one who manages money or property, for the benefit of the owner.
The necessary elements of the crime of embezzlement are set forth in MCL 750.174(1): "A person who as the agent, servant, or employee of another person, governmental entity within this state, or other legal entity or who as the trustee, bailee, or custodian of the property of another person, governmental entity within this state, or other legal entity fraudulently disposes of or converts to his or her own use, or takes or secrets with the intent to convert to his or her own use without the consent of his or her principal, any money or other personal property of his or her principal that has come to that person's possession or that is under his or her charge or control by virtue of his or her being an agent, servant, employee, trustee, bailee, or custodian, is guilty of embezzlement".
Another aggravating factor in this matter is the second group of criminal charges lodged against D'Arcy. The Lenawee County prosecuting attorney in Adrian has also accused the criminal defendant of using a computer to commit fraud, MCL 752.794. A related statute, MCL 752.797(3)(e), sets the maximum punishment at 10 years.
Further compounding the criminal defendant's woes is the allegation that he used a financial transaction device to commit the crime. Reportedly, D'Arcy siphoned some or all of the funds into a Paypal account that he controlled, by means of a victim's credit or debit card to which he had access.
Doubtless any assertion that D'Arcy merely misinterpreted the biblical proverb "The Lord helps those whom help themselves" will not stand him in good stead at his criminal jury trial. D'Arcy's Southfield criminal defense lawyer, however, is not without legal defenses, several of which are actually written into the criminal statute with which the defendant is charged.
Because those defenses are embedded within the criminal law, at trial, the Lenawee County prosecutor will effectively need to disprove those matters, beyond a reasonable doubt. In a nutshell, a reasonable doubt is a doubt of any size, big or small, arising out of the facts or lack of facts.
Thus, mere proof that the defendant took the funds will not be enough to convict. The prosecutor must also prove lack of permission, conversion for the thief's own usage, trustee status and specific intent to steal.
Since the burden of proof in a criminal trial never shifts, the prosecutor's inability fully carry that burden is nothing less than an outright win for the criminal defense lawyer.