A former special assistant in the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing $12,700 from the office while he was prosecuting probation violations.
Alvin Jones Arnett, 59, of the 200 block of Severn Drive in Annapolis pleaded guilty to misappropriation by a fiduciary before Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. As a part of the plea agreement, Arnett surrendered his license to practice law, agreed to perform 100 hours of community service and returned $205. He paid back $12,500 the day he was confronted with the evidence of the thefts.
In exchange, Assistant Attorney General Christopher Romano recommended a six-month jail term. The maximum sentence for the charge is five years.
Judge Thieme scheduled sentencing for Jan. 27.
The judge told Arnett's lawyer, Timothy Murnane, that he wanted a pre-sentence investigation to decide whether probation is appropriate.
"I don't wish Mr. Arnett any more problems than he already has, but we're looking at a period of probation here," the judge said.
Arnett was laid off in 1989 from a $125,000-a-year job as vice president at CSX Railroad Corp. and went to work as a $22,00-a-year-clerk in State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee's office after working on Mr. Weathersbee's 1990 election campaign. He was promoted to special assistant and was earning $45,000 a year when he was fired July 13.
Arnett said after the hearing that he had financial problems after losing the CSX job and that being convicted of a felony is a "bitter experience."
"For the past six months, I have just been wallowing in a pit of shame, despair and embarrassment," he said.
Circuit Court records show that Acacia Federal Savings Bank of Annandale, Va., instituted foreclosure proceedings on Mr. Arnett's house in April 1993, two years after he borrowed $189,000 from the bank. The foreclosure was dismissed May 16, court records show.
Mr. Romano said the criminal investigation began June 28 when a branch manager from Farmers National Bank told Mr. lTC Weathersbee that one of the office's two escrow accounts was overdrawn. Arnett was the only one authorized to write checks on that account.
Mr. Weathersbee tried several times over the next two weeks to meet with Arnett, who showed up July 13 with $12,500 in an envelope. He was fired that day and confessed to state police six weeks later when interviewed at his home.
According to the statement of charges filed by Mr. Romano yesterday, Arnett also accepted $205 June 9 from a defendant who had been ordered to pay the amount for a probation violation, then kept the money.
The account Arnett stole from was set up to provide police with cash to make undercover drug buys. It was closed after the theft was discovered.
The remaining escrow account, in which restitution funds are collected from defendants and disbursed to victims, is monitored by two staffers, with one signing the checks and the other doing the audits.