Former official charged with 17 counts of theft denied diversion

Former official charged with 17 counts of theft denied diversion

July 29th, 2011 by Todd South in News

Kenardo Curry

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

A motion was denied Thursday to avoid a trial for former Chattanooga Neighborhood Services Director Kenardo Curry, charged in a 19-count indictment that includes 17 counts of theft.

Called pretrial diversion, the motion would avoid a trial or even permanent criminal charges but not require a guilty plea from Curry, who also faces one count of official misconduct and one count of fraudulent use of a credit card after a 2004 internal audit found "questionable" charges to city credit cards used by Curry.

Hamilton County Assistant District Attorney Charlie Minor would not accept the pretrial diversion request; Curry's next court date is Sept. 6.

Curry's lawyer, Dan Ripper, filed the diversion request in April, asking that the prosecutor consider Curry's lack of a criminal record and longtime ties to the community.

Minor wrote in his response that Curry took no responsibility for the theft, fraud and official misconduct charges leveled against him between 2006 and 2007, two years after the audit found the discrepancies.

"(Curry) was the ringleader in a departmentwide conspiracy to defraud Chattanooga residents," Minor wrote. "In essence (Curry) did the exact opposite of what he was hired to do."

An investigation revealed Curry spent $25,000 of city money on four pairs of earrings, electronic recording equipment, digital cameras, a DVD player, a TV, two airplane tickets and painting and heating and air conditioning work on the Church of God of Prophecy.

In his written request for the diversion, Curry wrote a brief explanation for his indictment.

"These charges were imposed because of my position and the actions of those around me," he wrote.

Ripper said Thursday that once he received the official response from Minor, the next step would be for Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern to review the offer and denial. Stern can determine if the prosecutor was fair in his denial. Ripper then can file additional motions to support his client's request.

The case against Curry was scheduled for trial late last fall.

Ripper took over Curry's case in April 2008 and he said the length of time from indictment until now, five years, had a lot to do with additional charges filed by the district attorney's office.

"I guess I would say, 'Why has it taken the state five years to get the case to trial?'" Ripper said. "There have been multiple indictments and re-indictments, there have been delays throughout the case."

At least 12 city employees were charged with theft around the time of Curry's June 2006 arrest. Jennifer Center is scheduled to appear in Criminal Court on similar charges Aug. 8.

Along with Curry and Center, Mark Kleiner, Jermiah McGill, David Crutcher, Pam Davenport, Michael Lowman, David Marsh, Calvin Chubbs, Amy Barnes, Sandra Love and Tiffany Leigh Bercher were charged with theft, according to Times Free Press archives.

Kleiner and Love received pre-trial diversion, according to court records.