Monday, June 25, 2007
Conviction for Misuse of Commissioner’s Personal Data Upheld
But Panel Orders Resentencing for Woman Linked to Theft of Jurist’s Trash
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The Fourth District Court of Appeal has affirmed the felony conviction of a Huntington Beach woman on charges of misusing stolen personal data to harm an Orange Superior Court commissioner and several police officers.
Thursday’s ruling by Div. Three sent the case of Linda Jean Tillotson back to the Orange Superior Court for resentencing, in part because the court relied upon factors not considered by a jury in imposing an aggravated sentence.
Retired Riverside Superior Court Judge Janice M. McIntyre, who was assigned to the Orange Superior Court to hear the case, imposed an aggregate term of 14 years, four months in state prison after the Huntington Beach woman was convicted of six drug-related offenses, eight counts of identity theft and computer fraud, and violating a court order.
Justice Richard Fybel’s opinion for the appellate court detailed a campaign by Tillotson, an alleged methamphetamine dealer, against Martin Engquist, a court commissioner at the time, along with several Huntington Beach and Cypress police officers.
The prosecution presented evidence that Tillotson had accessed the State Bar Web site to obtain Engquist’s home address and that a computer in her home had been used to gain access to Equifax credit reports for the commissioner and the police officers in August 2003. Tillotson’s sister was identified as the person who stole three bags of trash from in front of Enquist’s home, and a Mapquest page showing the route from Tillotson’s home to the commissioner’s was seized pursuant to a search warrant.
(Engquist, who reclaimed his active State Bar membership earlier this year, now lists a Post Office box address on the State Bar site and does not list a phone or fax number or an e-mail address.)
A Huntington Park detective who investigated an identity theft ring testified that more than a dozen individuals were responsible for compromising nearly 600 credit reports using the password of a local dentist. The dentist failed to change the password after firing an employee, who subsequently gave the password to others.
One of those who obtained the password was Mike Quitoriano, later identified as the man who used it to access the Equifax database from Tillotson’s home. After police seized the credit reports while executing the second of three warrants to search the home, Tillotson told them that a friend had brought Quitoriano to her house, where he set up a laptop and accessed and printed the reports.
Tillotson told the officers that Engquist was a “son of a b——“ and that he and the officers whose credit reports she obtained were part of a conspiracy against her . The commissioner had presided over a case in which she was fined for a city code violation and had also conducted her arraignment on drug charges following the execution of the first search warrant.
Police obtained that warrant after a man found in possession of methamphetamine during a traffic stop said he had purchased the drugs from Tillotson at her home. Tillotson had a prior conviction for felony possession of methamphetamine for sale.
In affirming the convictions on most of the charges, the appellate panel rejected a contention that with respect to the counts in which Quitoriano was involved, the jury should have been instructed on accomplice liability rather than on aiding and abetting, along with a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence of identity theft.
In rulings that may result in reduction of the overall sentence, however, the panel found that:
•With respect to the charge of violating a court order—a restraining order prohibiting contact with one of the police officers—there had been no actual contact, merely an attempt by Tillotson to hire private investigators to conduct surveillance of the officer, so the charge must be reduced to attempt to violate the order;
•The trial judge committed prejudicial error with respect to one count of computer fraud by failing to instruct jurors that the defendant could only be convicted if she actually used the data that she improperly obtained;
•That the court erroneously imposed two three-year enhancements under a statute provided for an increased sentence when a defendant convicted of certain serious drug offenses has been previously convicted of such an offense, the attorney general conceding that the statute allows only one such enhancement when a defendant is convicted of multiple new offenses in a single trial;
•That the judge had discretion to impose concurrent sentences on several counts, and erred in failing to explain her reasons for not doing so; and
•The use of judicial factfinding to impose an aggravated sentence violated the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Cunningham v. California.
The case is People v. Tillotson, 07 S.O.S. 3351.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company