Embezzlement charges against county clerk dismissed

EVERETT — Prosecutors won’t retry a former Snohomish County clerk who they accused of embezzling money from the juvenile court’s diversion program in 2013.

A jury in July acquitted Sara Nelson of stealing $100 from a county lock box. Jurors couldn’t reach a verdict on three counts of misappropriation or falsification of accounts by a public officer, a felony.

Nelson, 39, faced a potential second trial, but Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Matt Hunter filed a motion Thursday asking a judge to dismiss the charges against the former clerk.

The jury in Nelson’s trial was “divided quite evenly,” Hunter wrote. He didn’t expect to be able to present any additional evidence at a retrial.

“The Prosecuting Attorney’s office has decided that use of additional resources for another trial is not justified at this time,” Hunter wrote in court papers.

Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss signed an order dismissing the charges.

Part of Nelson’s job in the clerk’s office was to take cash payments from juveniles in the diversion program. Children paid $100 to take classes as part of the requirements to avoid criminal charges.

A discrepancy was first reported in September 2013 when a probation counselor tried to verify that a juvenile had paid his fee.

The boy’s last name was misspelled on paperwork so a clerk supervisor used a receipt number to track down the payment. The receipt number corresponded to a $1 photocopy fee, not the juvenile’s payment.

A supervisor began to investigate, asking Nelson how it was possible to generate a verification sheet without the payment being noted in the computer accounting system. Jurors were told that Nelson showed the woman how to post the payment, print a verification sheet and back out of the transaction before hitting the “enter” key.

Court papers said investigators uncovered more than three dozen falsified records totalling more than $3,000.

Prosecutors told jurors that Nelson generated the verification sheets for three missing payments.

Her defense attorney, Donald Wackerman, argued that Nelson was targeted simply because her initials were on receipts. He said evidence showed other clerks used Nelson’s computer while she was logged on.

Jurors deliberated almost a full day before they told the judge they were deadlocked on the felony charges.

They weren’t persuaded that Nelson was responsible for money missing from the lock box.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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