It’s far from your average theft case. It involves a 20-year-old woman accused of stealing almost $29,000, but who was found with only $150, and a complainant who wasn’t even in court to testify.
What happened to prompt police to show up at the Battery Hotel in St. John’s in the wee hours of Feb. 2 depends on who you listen to.
According to the Crown, Keisha Power tried to walk out with almost $29,000 from a safety deposit box belonging to a hotel guest, who said they caught her red-handed.
The defence says nobody actually saw her with that much money and that she should not even be facing such a hefty charge.
Judge Pamela Goulding will determine which argument has more merit May 14, when she renders the verdict.
Power admitted taking money
Power is charged with theft over $5,000 and was tried Wednesday morning in provincial court in St. John’s.
However, it was a trial which saw neither the complainant, “a mainland businessman,” nor the accused testify.
In fact, defence lawyer Lori Marshall didn’t call any evidence at all.
Instead, the case relied on the evidence of two hotel employees and three police officers.
Robin Thornhill was working the front desk the day of the incident. He testified that at around 4:30 a.m., Power approached the front desk with a key to a guest safety deposit box, requesting she be given its contents. Since she had the key, he didn’t ask questions.
He asked another employee, Gerard Evans, who had been mopping the floor, to escort the woman to the “Captain’s Room,” where the safety deposit boxes are kept.
Evans, a hotel steward, told the court Power put the contents of the box in her purse. He said he didn’t actually see if it was money she was taking, but noticed she dropped a few $20 bills on the floor and picked them up before leaving.
As they were returning to the lobby, they were confronted by a man, who was screaming that the woman was trying to steal his money from the safety deposit box. He demanded she give it back.
Thornhill, who was nearby to see what was going on, immediately called police.
Before officers showed up, Evans said the woman first denied taking the money, but after a few minutes admitted she did.
“She was crying and said she would give it back if he promised he’d let her go,” Evans told the court.
He said Power and the man then went outside the front entrance, where they continued to argue. Another woman — who employees said had been waiting in a cab for Power — was also outside at the time, but left shortly afterwards.
When Power and the man came back inside, Evans said, she handed “a stack of bills” over to the man. He put them in his pocket.
When police arrived, the man counted the money on the front desk. He said he had $28,300 in the safety deposit box.
When cross-examined, Evans admitted he didn’t see if it was money Power took out of the safety deposit box, but said he did see her give the man a large stack of money in the lobby.
Thornhill also confirmed the man was counting what was a large quantity of cash on the front desk counter, with mostly $100 bills.
RNC Const. Robert Mackenzie, the lead investigator in the case, testified that when he arrived, Power told him that “everything was fine” and that she had returned the money to the man.
When cross-examined, he said he didn’t actually see Power in possession of the money and admitted he didn’t confirm the amount of money or whether it was real or counterfeit.
Mackenzie said during the investigation, he called the other woman, who employees said had been waiting in a cab, but she refused to talk. He could not confirm her identity, since hotel video surveillance was unavailable.
Const. Michael Curran and Const. Brian Marshall, who showed up at the hotel shortly after Mackenzie, also took the stand.
Curran said Power admitted to taking the money, “but said something along the lines of it was all a misunderstanding.”
Marshall indicated Power, who seemed intoxicated, tried to smooth things over.
“She thought that by turning over the money that would make it all go away,” he said. “I told her that wasn’t the case.”
Marshall said when he checked Power’s purse, he found $150 — one $100 bill, two $20 bills and a $10 bill.
Power confessed the money belonged to the man and gave it back to him.
Marshall couldn’t confirm the money the man was counting actually totalled over $28,000. However, he said judging by the large number of $100 bills, “it was definitely over $5,000.”
In the end, many questions were left unanswered in the case, such as how Power met the man, why he had so much money at the time, why he wasn’t in court and how Power got the key to the safety deposit box.
It was a point not lost on the defence.
In closing arguments, Lori Marshall said there are too many unknowns. All that can be proven, she said, was that Power had $150. As a result, a charge of theft over $5,000 is unwarranted.