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14 counts against Linda Hald dismissed by circuit court judge due to improperly worded indictment

Charges against a former county employee charged with embezzling money from the Columbia Community Justice Department will not be dropped.

Columbia County Circuit Judge Ted Grove handed down a ruling last month that an indictment against Hald Linda K. Hald, who worked in the Community Justice Department for 30 years before her 2015 retirement, will not be dismissed despite a motion for dismissal from Hald's attorney.

Hald was arraigned in November and charged with first-degree theft, tampering with public records, aggravated theft and official misconduct. The county estimated she took nearly $586,000 over the course of 17 years in her capacity as an administrator with the justice department who handled cash and other monetary transactions. Through insurance claims, the county was able to recover most of the loss, a county news release reported last year.

Her attorney, Michael Staropoli, argued the indictment against Hald was filed incorrectly by Assistant Attorney General John Tseng, who filed charges against Hald on behalf of the state. Tseng was called in to act as the prosecutor in lieu of anyone from the Columbia County District Attorney's Office to prevent any conflicts because of a close working relationship the DA's office previously had with Hald.

Staropoli argued due process violations occurred and noted several other deficiencies with wording in the indictment, which boiled down to technicalities. Grove eventually denied the attorney's motions to dismiss the case in a decision filed May 18, but granted a motion to dismiss 14 counts against Hald.

Despite several references to Hald's former job position in Columbia County, Grove agreed the state left out technical details — specifically, naming the county where the alleged crimes took place — in an indictment against Hald that included 29 charges.

A motion to dismiss counts 15 through 28 was granted by Grove, for the state's "failure to allege the county where the crimes charged occurred," Grove noted in his May 18 response to the demurrer and motion to dismiss the indictment.

Grove's legal assistant indicated the charges are likely to be re-filed by the state.

Staropoli could not be reached for comment. Tseng did not respond to a request for comment on the dismissal of charges.

Hald is due back in Columbia County Circuit Court July 18 for a jury trial.

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