By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A man convicted of stealing thousands of dollars from the Havre hotel that employed him was sentenced this morning to 30 days in jail.
Robert L. Field, 34, former manager of the TownHouse Inns Of Havre, was sentenced in state District Court by Judge John McKeon in connection with Field's conviction on a charge of theft by deception by common scheme. A jury during a two-day trial in March found Field guilty of stealing more than $17,000 from the hotel.
McKeon sentenced Field to a six-year deferred sentence, with all but 30 days suspended. He ordered Field to serve the sentence in the Hill County Detention Center within the next six months. He also ordered Field to repay more than $18,000 to TownHouse Inns before the end of the six years.
The sentence was more than Field's Great Falls attorney, Antonia Marra, requested during today's hearing. Marra asked McKeon to hand down a sentence similar to one prosecutors offered under a proposed 2002 plea agreement. The agreement offered to defer the entire sentence in exchange for Field's guilty plea, Marra said.
Field, who adamantly maintained his innocence, rejected the plea offer and went to trial. After he was convicted, prosecutors sought a jail sentence.
"What concerns me is that my client exercised his constitutional rights," Marra told McKeon. " Basically, what the state wants is a confession." She argued that Field's sentence should be similar to that in the plea agreement.
Marra also requested that Field pay only $400 in restitution, saying TownHouse Inns had not provided ample documentation to establish an accurate restitution amount.
Field was charged Oct. 9 with stealing $20,895 from the TownHouse Inns between June 18, 2001, and May 10, 2002. Prosecutors later amended that figure to about $17,000.
According to the charging document, Field pocketed cash from the hotel and altered deposit slips to conceal the thefts. The complaint said that on May 10, 2002, Field stole $627.50 from the hotel by claiming he refunded payments to six unsatisfied customers. Four of the people testified during his trial that they never received a refund.
Marra argued during the trial that criminal allegations from TownHouse Inns were the result of a complaint Field had filed for wrongful termination. The corporation was scared it had fired Field without cause and wanted to ensure it didn't lose a civil lawsuit, she said.
Field was suspended as hotel manager on May 15, 2002, and was later fired.
A deferred sentence means that the record of Field's conviction will be sealed if he remains law-abiding for six years.