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Search & Seizure – Jacket Pocket – Public Officer

Even assuming the trial court erred in denying defendant’s motion to suppress a key found in a jacket belonging to defendant, who was employed by a community college to collect money deposited in parking meters, any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt and the Court of Appeals affirms defendant’s conviction for embezzlement under Va. Code § 18.2-112.

The fact that the old key was found in defendant’s jacket was irrelevant considering that he possessed the new key, which had been removed from the safe and was missing. From the time the business manager had placed the new key in service until the time she discovered the new key was missing and replaced by the old key, defendant was the only person to sign out the parking meter key. After discovering the old key had been substituted for the new key, the business manager placed the old key back in service by leaving it in the safe to be checked out.

The ultimate purpose of placing the old key back in service was to observe those who collect money from the parking meters to determine who had the new key. Once the new key became the “missing” key, whoever had the new key would have necessarily possessed the old key. Because defendant was caught with the new key, it follows logically that he had the old key and the opportunity to misappropriate the money deposited in the parking meters. The fact that the older key was found in defendant’s upper right jacket pocket was merely cumulative evidence of a fact the commonwealth had clearly proven.

Also, the fact that defendant regularly deposited large sums of money in quarters in his bank account on Saturdays – the same day he generally collected the money from the parking meters – in conjunction with the fact that he lied about the source of those quarters to his bank and to the police, support the contention that he embezzled the quarters from the parking meters. Bank records showed that defendant deposited over $33,000 in coins into his bank account within a six-month period. After he was fired, the parking meter receipts quadrupled over a six-month period.

Conviction affirmed.

Oryem v. Commonwealth (Petty, J.) No. 2638-08-4, Dec. 8, 2009; Alexandria Cir.Ct. (Kemler) George J. Wooditch Jr. for appellant; Erin M. Kulpa, AAG, for appellee. VLW 009-7-513(UP), 7 pp.

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