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An assurance of a misdemeanor conviction is the main sticking point in plea negotiations involving a firefighter being prosecuted for embezzling more than $24,000 from a Dolan Springs-based fire district. Phillip Picard, 32, was charged with fraud, forgery and theft following an investigation that determined he was paid by claiming hours that he did not work for the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District (LMRFD).

   Deputy Mohave County attorney David Wayt told Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen during a July 29 settlement conference that witnesses, accounting paperwork and a recorded telephone conversation give the state a strong case.Wayt said he offered a plea agreement involving guaranteed supervised probation, court discretion over possible jail time and a felony conviction.

   Defense attorney Virginia Crews said Wayt rejected her counter offer stipulating to a misdemeanor conviction.

   Picard has already fully reimbursed the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District, hoping for leniency in resolution of his criminal case.  Judge Jantzen encouraged attorneys to continue negotiating and he suggested a plea structure that would leave the offense as undesignated.

   Undesignated offense guilty pleas sometimes automatically revert to a misdemeanor conviction when a defendant completes probation. And sometimes they leave the designation decision up to the Judge when probation is completed.

   Picard has moved out of state and Crews said he hopes to resolve his case without returning to Mohave County.

   Judge Jantzen noted that he is merely conducting an independent settlement conference on behalf of Judge Rick Lambert and that it is not clear if Lambert would accept an undesignated offense plea agreement in Picard's case. Wayt expressed optimism that he and Crews can work through the issue and present an acceptable plea proposal to Judge Lambert.

   A status hearing before Judge Lambert is scheduled August 17.

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