Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
After hearing what proved to be sometimes contentious testimony on the amount of restitution Brent J. Giachino of Havre, 63, should pay the Duck Inn Inc., District Judge David Rice on Friday sentenced Giachino in state District Court in Havre to two years of deferred imposition of sentencing. Rice said he would announce the amount of restitution when he files his final judgment. In a plea agreement in May, Giachino admitted to taking documents from the business and turning off or changing the settings of equipment in The Duck Inn, where he worked as manager. Giachino’s attorney, Dan Boucher, in his closing arguments likened the situation to a messy divorce. After more than 35 years of working closely together, the relationship between Giachino and Bill Dritshulas, owner and chief executive officer of The Duck Inn Inc., soured, Boucher said. “This couple needs to split. This couple needs to go on its way,” he said. Giachino pleaded guilty May 7 in a plea agreement to misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief and negligent endangerment, amended on May 5 from felony charges of criminal mischief and criminal endangerment. Giachino was originally charged in August. Giachino, who had managed the restaurant, had worked there for 30 years and had worked with Dritshulas for at least five years before starting at The Duck Inn. Rice sentenced Giachino in accordance with the plea agreement. If Giachino abides by all conditions of his release for the two-year probationary period, he could petition to have the charges struck from his record. The conditions include having no contact with Bill Dritshulas or his wife, Judi Dritshulas; not entering any businesses operated by them; not consuming any alcohol or entering any businesses that sell alcohol except for the sole purpose of eating in the business, and paying restitution, to be determined by the court, plus a 10 percent fee. On Friday, Bill Dritshulas asked Rice to award more than $29,000 in restitution, which he said is the balance of damages submitted to his insurance company after the insurance company made the maximum payment it could make for the claim, which it accepted. According to a document in the court file, the claim submitted by The Duck Inn Inc. to the insurance company, Fireman Fund Insurance in Earth City, Mo., the total loss was $39,479.35. “I think it’s a conservative figure, since he stole or confiscated all the records,” Dritshulas said. “I would like to tell the court that I am very angry, very, very angry “It’s almost unforgivable, and you see he has no remorse,” Dritshulas added. In his testimony, Giachino said he can’t believe the restaurant took any losses from his actions, which he characterized as “childish” and which he said stemmed from his finding a letter of reprimand on his desk after he had an argument with Judi Dritshulas about how Bill Dritshulas was running the business. Rice warned Bill Dritshulas, who during his testimony characterized Giachino’s interaction with Judi Dritshulas as “drunken tirades,” not to make audible comments during Giachino’s testimony after Bill Dritshulas emitted a derisive laugh during the testimony. In his closing remarks, Boucher said the figure asked by The Duck Inn was not consistent with the charges Giachino pleaded guilty to in the plea agreement. The misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief says the damage is less than $1,000. “I think this court is limited to what he is charged with,” Boucher said. Giachino was accused of taking documents, including a wall calendar and a record book which had records of reservations for groups at the restaurant, and of unplugging coolers and the ice-making machine, turning up the heat in the Olympic Room of the restaurant, turning the water heaters to the highest setting and turning on the booster heaters on the restaurants dishwasher. Dritshulas told investigating law enforcement officer in July that if the boosters are on when there is no water in the system, it could possibly cause an explosion. According to a court document, the restaurant's security cameras showed Giachino entering The Duck Inn on July 24 at 4:48 a.m. and taking actions including removing the calendar, unplugging the cooler and turning on the thermostat upstairs. According to the court document, a members of the restaurant staff said they had found the computer that is used for the business’ security system was found unplugged that morning, but the security cameras had continued to run. Dritshulas, in testimony Friday that sometimes prompted Rice to warn him simply to respond to the questions put to him by the attorneys, said Giachino’s action caused considerable expense in lost bookings, lost work on menus and in food waste and considerable amounts of extra work for the staff. He said because Giachino took the listings of reservations, the restaurant lost money when people cancelled their reservations. The total listed as lost on the claim to Fireman’s Fund due to loss of corporate records was $6,856.30. In the document explaining the claim, The Duck Inn lists a private birthday party, a local service club and an oil-field business’ reservations as being cancelled or requiring extra staffing because the business was not sure of all reservations made. “I’m telling you we lost them because we didn’t know if we could accommodate them or not,” he said in response to a question from Boucher. Dritshulas also testified that three salaried workers had to work extra time seven- days-a-week because the restaurant did not know when reservations would show up. He requested $26,011 for salary bonuses and $1,017 for additional workers compensation to pay them for their extra work. Giachino said during his testimony that the salaried staff should not have expected bonuses for extra work he regularly worked seven-days-a-week with no bonuses during his 30 years at The Duck Inn, he said. The claim also listed $1,310.81 in food lost to over-preparation due to not knowing how many would arrive for events, and $1,583.67 in additional expense in preparing new menus. Dritshulas said preparing new menus is a regular event at the restaurant, but significant cost was incurred because Giachino normally did that. Giachino had been working on new menus, but that work was lost when he quit, Dritshulas said. “I paid him to do this, basically, and we had to turn around and do it again,” he said. Giachino said there should have been no extra cost the menus for The Duck Inn and The Mediterranean Room had already been prepared and were in the restaurant or on order. When Hill County Attorney Cyndee Petersen pointed out that Giachino had said he had not been in the restaurant since July and he could not know what had come in or what had been redone or ordered, Giachino said he did not know what had been done since that time. During the sentencing, Rice said he needed to look at the figures and the arguments to determine the appropriate retribution. Some of the costs listed could be attributable to the normal operation of a business, he said. The amount of retribution ordered by the court will be listed in the final judgement, Rice said.