Plea change likely in embezzle case
Nevada City resident Linda Balch, accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from her homeowners association where she was treasurer, is expected to withdraw her not guilty plea next week, the district attorney said Tuesday.
The change in plea comes as the judge hearing the case disqualified herself because of personal ties to Balch’s husband, former Nevada City mayor Tom Balch.
Linda Balch pleaded not guilty Nov. 21 to three charges of felony embezzlement and one count of theft from an elder, but she is scheduled to change her plea to either guilty or no contest Feb. 28, District Attorney Cliff Newell said.
“A tentative plea agreement has been reached,” Newell said Tuesday. “The charges will remain the same. I won’t be reducing the felonies to misdemeanors or anything like that.”
Newell has been engaged in “extensive” discussions with Balch’s attorney, Thomas Leupp of Auburn, he said, and the two have reached an unofficial agreement on the terms of the plea change.
Balch was arrested Oct. 25, 2007, after a two-week investigation by the Grass Valley police, who allege Balch used her position as association treasurer to embezzle more than $100,000 from the Woodbridge homeowners association between September 2005 and Sept. 30 2007.
Balch used the funds for personal gain, investigators said.
At Balch’s arraignment in November, Newell said he expected Balch would be able to pay restitution in the case.
After issuing subpoenas to Citizen’s Bank and Bank of America, Newell recently received complete records of Balch’s transactions on behalf of the homeowners association, Newell said.
Newell would not comment Tuesday on the details of the plea agreement, including possible restitution for Balch’s alleged victims, many of whom are elderly.
Nevada County Superior Court Judge Julie McManus disqualified herself Feb. 14 from presiding over Balch’s case.
“(McManus) knows Mr. Balch,” Newell said.
McManus said she is a member of the 49er Breakfast Rotary Club of Nevada City, where Tom Balch is also a member and served as past president.
“I don’t think it would have affected her judgment,” Newell said of McManus. “She just felt it would be better to recuse herself for the appearance of propriety.”
Balch is set to change her plea in Nevada County Superior Court at 9 a.m. Feb. 28.
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4236.
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