Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session Date January 14, 2014
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Putnam County No. 12-0183 Leon C. Burns, Jr., Judge
William A. Cameron, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brenda Judy Moss.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Bradshaw, Assistant Attorney General; Randy York, District Attorney General; and Beth Willis, Assistant District Attorney General for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Joseph M. Tipton, P.J. and Thomas T. Woodall, J., joined.
ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE
I. Background and Facts
A Putnam County grand jury indicted the Defendant for theft of property valued over $60, 000, a Class B felony. On December 10, 2013, the Defendant entered a guilty plea to the indicted offense. A transcript of the guilty plea hearing is not included in the record on appeal.
At the sentencing hearing, the trial court admitted into evidence the presentence report, which contains the following recitation of the indictment against the Defendant:
The grand jurors of Putnam County, Tennessee, duly empannelled [sic] and sworn upon their oath present that Brenda Judy Moss, between June 2009 and August 2011 in Putnam County, Tennessee and before the finding of this indictment did unlawfully and knowingly obtain or exercise control over property, including but not limited to; cash valued at over sisty [sic] thousand dollars ($60, 000.00), belonging to Satellite Med with intent to deprive the owner thereof and without the owner's effective consent, in violation of T.C.A. 39-14-103, and against the peace and dignity of the State of Tennessee.
This report also provided the Defendant's statement about the offense, "I took money from my employer. Much to my shame. I don't know why I did except I did need money to pay bills. I deeply regret the people I hurt with what I did."
Jessie Rucker, a Tennessee Department of Correction probation officer, testified that she prepared the presentence report in this case. During the course of preparing the pre-sentence report, Ms. Rucker learned that the Defendant had no prior criminal record. Ms. Rucker testified that the Defendant passed a drug screen in December, was "retired, " and was receiving $1, 486 monthly in Social Security benefits. The Defendant reported health issues including diabetes and "back problems." The Defendant also reported that she lived with her husband and took "care of her grandson." At the time of the hearing, the Defendant had paid the court costs associated with this case.
Dr. James A. Cates, a physician, testified that he was the primary owner of Satellite Med in Cookeville, Tennessee. He recalled that Satellite Med opened on April 7, 2006, and that he hired the Defendant in January 2008 for an accounting position. Dr. Cates said that he was involved in the interview process and believed the Defendant to be trustworthy when he hired her. Dr. Cates explained that Satellite Med was set up to treat uninsured patients, which was discussed with the Defendant during her interview. Dr. Cates said that the Defendant was well aware of the challenges of bill collection for a clinic with the primary purpose of serving uninsured patients. Dr. Cates recalled that the Defendant had taken a leadership role in the clinic and had been promoted to the head of billing.
Dr. Cates testified that in January 2009, he noticed that "the cash flow was very short, and we were close to closing our doors." Dr. Cates said that he struggled with how "to keep the doors open." Nonetheless, he continued to praise the employees in billing for their hard work. As a result of the shortage, the clinic reduced employee hours to save money in an effort to continue providing treatment to the patients. Dr. Cates said that, during this time, he never suspected that the Defendant was taking money.
Dr. Cates testified that he learned of the Defendant's conduct after she had left her work with the facility in August 2011. The Defendant's replacement, upon reviewing the records, began to notice discrepancies and multiple deposit slips for a transaction. After further investigation, Dr. Cates notified the district attorney's office and provided to that office a restitution amount of $111, 374.19. Dr. Cates testified that $35, 000 of this amount had been paid by his insurance carrier. Dr. Cates said that he had not yet received any restitution from the Defendant nor any type of apology for her actions. Dr. Cates requested that the trial court impose "the maximum sentence."
Monica Neal testified that she was currently the Accounts Receivable Manager at Satellite Med. She explained that she had replaced the Defendant. Ms. Neal said that she become aware of discrepancies in the accounting when a patient called one day complaining that the patient had not received credit for a payment. Ms. Neal began reviewing the history of the account and found that the Defendant ...