Crime - Sacto 911

Former Woodland nonprofit head pleads no contest to theft

The former executive director of a Woodland homeless relief agency pleaded no contest Wednesday to grand theft after embezzling more than $30,000 from the organization, a day after a deadlocked jury resulted in a mistrial.

Leona Jull, former executive director of Fourth and Hope in downtown Woodland, was accused of using a work-furnished credit card to steal from the homeless relief organization over a three-year span. Jull abruptly left her post in March 2013 after leading Fourth and Hope, formerly Yolo Wayfarer Center, for more than 12 years.

With her misdemeanor plea Wednesday, Jull faces probation, restitution and the possibility of jail time, according to Yolo County District Attorney’s officials. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 29 in Yolo Superior Court in Woodland.

The plea came after a jury deadlocked 6-6 Tuesday on a verdict, leading the court to declare a mistrial. On Wednesday, Jull pleaded no contest to the felony grand theft allegation under an agreement that Yolo Superior Court Judge David Rosenberg would immediately reduce the charge to a misdemeanor.

The plea deal with Rosenberg occurred over the objections of Yolo County prosecutors.

In a statement Wednesday, Yolo County District Attorney’s officials said they were “disappointed” that the court allowed Jull to plead to the felony count, then reduced it to a misdemeanor. “It was the People’s intent to retry this case to achieve the felony conviction which we always have believed was justified,” the statement read.

Fourth and Hope officials went to Woodland authorities with their suspicions in April 2013, alleging that Jull used her work-issued Visa card to buy merchandise for personal use. Woodland police arrested Jull that August after a months-long investigation.

Jull attorney Robbin Coker did not return calls requesting comment.

Fourth and Hope board president Jean Jordan called the case “a difficult time and a distraction from the mission of serving the Yolo County residents who need us most,” adding that Jull’s plea “closes a door and we look forward to a much brighter future for Fourth and Hope.”

The agency provides safety net services to Yolo County’s homeless, including meals, emergency shelter and job training. The organization serves 70,000 meals a year and arranges shelter for more than 450 people a day, according to information on its website.