WORTHINGTON - After considerable debate, a former rural Worthington man will serve some jail time after being convicted of regularly stealing from his former employer, Worthington Building Materials.
Leonard Leibrich, 58, of Sioux Falls, S.D. received a stay of imposition on a felony-theft charge of more than $15,000. Leibrich has the opportunity to avoid a felony conviction should he comply with the terms of his four-year supervised probation.
Fifth Judicial District Judge Gordon Moore also sentenced Leibrich to 120 days imprisonment, which is to be served in 30-day increments on weekends.
According to the criminal complaint, Leibrich allegedly stole $31,589.41 from Worthington Building Materials between June 2014 and April 2016.
Tuesday’s prison sentence didn’t come without considerable debate between counsel, Moore and Leibrich.
Despite the probation agent’s recommendation for home monitoring, State Prosecutor Braden Hoefert advocated for some physical jail time to be served. As part of his argument, Hoefert referenced a similar case recently heard in Nobles County District Court and the precedent it set.
In the State of Minnesota v. Deborah Frodermann, Frodermann - who was convicted of regularly stealing from Shopko - received a jail sentence imposed by Fifth Judicial District Terry Vajgrt. The amount of money Frodermann pleaded guilty to was of lesser value than Leibrich’s, Hoefert added.
“I think the citizens of Nobles County need to realize that when someone steals this amount of money from someone, that person sees the inside of a jail cell,” Hoefert said. “Without some (jail) punishment … (Leibrich) got a low-interest or no-interest loan, actually.”
Defense Attorney Andrew Titus disagreed, stating that paying restitution was not the only consequence Leibrich was facing.
“This isn’t something where he pays restitution and that’s it,” Titus said. “He’s going to have a felony on his record for the remainder of his life.”
Hoefert said he was willing to compromise and agree to a lesser level of conviction, but was passionate that Leibrich - who Hoefert said engaged in a lengthy pattern of criminal history - receive some jail sentence.
Leibrich expressed his desire to remain out of jail and to be on a home monitoring system, citing a string of personal reasons.
“Whatever excuse I could give isn’t good enough,” Leibrich said as a response to Moore’s questioning whether he’s felt any remorse.
Moore said the case presented a challenge for several reasons, including Leibrich’s personal situation as well as the Frodermann case precedent.
“I think it would be a miscarriage of justice for you not to go to jail,” Moore said ultimately.
With a probation agent’s recommendation, Leibrich could have his prison sentence beyond the initial 30 days abated.
Four other charges were dismissed as part of the plea agreement. Despite the dismissal, the state will likely seek the full restitution of $31,589.41. It has 30 days to file a restitution affidavit, which the defense indicated it will likely contest.