Woman cleared of stealing from senior

  • Melissa Burton

    Melissa Burton

The Crown vowed to launch an appeal yesterday after the case against an American life coach accused of stealing $56,000 from an elderly Bermudian client was thrown out on technical grounds.

Melissa Burton walked free from court after Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons directed the jury to return not guilty verdicts on all counts after a prosecution mistake on the defendant’s indictment.

Larry Mussenden, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that the Crown had charged Ms Burton, 53, with five counts of theft under Section 337 of the Criminal Code.

Mr Mussenden said the Crown had “historically” used Section 337, which defines the penalties for theft.

He added: “However, the offence of theft is defined in Section 331.

“So the judge was not prepared to allow amendment for that point.”

He said the second problem was that the indictment charged Ms Burton with the theft of money from a bank account.

Mr Mussenden added: “The judge accepted defence lawyer Mark Pettingill’s submission that it should not have been described as money, but it should have been described as a credit balance.”

He added: “The Crown replied that those technical points were not fateful to the case, and that we should be allowed to amend the indictment.”

Mrs Justice Simmons decided that the case should not proceed.

Ms Burton was also charged with one count of financial exploitation of a senior.

Mr Mussenden said the Crown “strongly” disagreed with the judgment.

He added: “On that basis, we’re going to file an appeal with the Court of Appeal right away with the view of having this matter sent back for trial.”

Mr Mussenden said he hoped to have the matter set down for the November session.

He added: “It would be for us to try and urge that this matter be heard, so that there’s not a huge passage of time.”

Mr Mussenden said he felt Mrs Justice Simmons “took into account the wrong things, and come to the wrong conclusion”.

Mr Pettingill said he was pleased with the verdict.

He added: “We took the position from the outset that there had been no dishonesty on the part of Ms Burton. I’m sure this is a tremendous relief for her and I’m pleased for her.”

He said that he was prepared for an appeal.

Mr Pettingill added: “When there are issues of law, then questions of appeal can arise. That’s just the way that the game goes.”

Mr Pettingill made a no-case submission after the Crown had closed its case, but Mrs Justice Simmons ruled that there was a case to answer.

Closing statements were then made by the Crown and the defence.

Mr Mussenden said that indictment problems were identified afterwards by Mrs Justice Simmons and Mr Pettingill made a second no-case submission.

Prosecutors earlier told the Supreme Court that Ms Burton had transferred thousands of dollars out of Katherine Trimingham’s bank accounts while she was dying.

Mr Pettingill said there was no evidence Ms Burton had done anything that was not in Ms Trimingham’s best interests.

Ms Burton, from Sag Harbour, Long Island, New York, was a life coach for Ms Trimingham, who died in December 2016 at the age of 72.

The court heard that in the days before and after her death, Ms Burton made a series of transfers from Ms Trimingham’s personal account into accounts she controlled.

Ms Burton did not take the stand in her own defence and did not call any defence witnesses.

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding court cases. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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