Citing flaws in Centre County DA’s case, court vacates Centre Hall woman’s conviction

The Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated the conviction and sentence of a Centre Hall woman who was accused of stealing more than $14,000 from Snappy’s in Potter Township.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court vacated the conviction and sentence of a Centre Hall woman who was accused of stealing more than $14,000 from Snappy’s in Potter Township. Centre Daily Times, file

The state Superior Court on Friday vacated the conviction and sentence of a Centre Hall woman accused of stealing more than $14,000 from a Snappy’s safe.

There were “significant evidentiary errors” and the Centre County district attorney’s office did not present any direct evidence that Tracy Addleman — a former manager at the Potter Township store — was the one who stole the money, a three-judge panel wrote.

Assistant Public Defender Shannon Malone said she was “extremely happy” with the ruling.

“I obviously didn’t agree with the evidentiary rulings before the trial and during the trial. And there was information that was kept from the jury’s consideration that, I believe, they should’ve been able to consider,” Malone said. “The Superior Court did find that, in both instances, keeping those out from the consideration of the jury was an abuse of discretion. It was improper.”

Addleman, 41, was hired by Snappy’s in June 2017. State police at Rockview in March 2018 charged her after Snappy’s district manager Marie Rossman said she discovered the money was missing in December 2017, the Superior Court wrote.

About the same time Rossman discovered the missing money, Addleman bought her coworkers lunches, snacks and gifts, the Superior Court wrote.

The district attorney’s office argued the testimony established Addleman’s motive to steal the money, showed her alleged failure to make daily deposits with the bank was not a mistake and established her as the one who accessed the safe, the Superior Court wrote.

“The Commonwealth also introduced the bank records of Snappy’s deposits (during the trial),” the Superior Court wrote. “The Commonwealth did not, however, present any direct evidence that it was (Addleman) who stole the funds from Snappy’s safe.”

Addleman was convicted in September of one felony count of theft by deception and acquitted of one felony count each of unlawful taking and receiving stolen property. She was sentenced in October to four years of intermediate punishment.

In her appeal filed in November, Malone successfully argued she should have been allowed to introduce evidence that Addleman engaged in similar gift-giving behavior at her previous Dollar General job. Centre County Judge Katherine Oliver excluded the evidence and concluded it was “irrelevant” and “marginal at best,” the Superior Court wrote.

“We agree with (Malone) that her evidence was relevant to rebut the Commonwealth’s theory that (Addleman’s) generous behavior toward her coworkers began, for the first time, in December 2017 and its implication that her generosity stemmed from her misappropriation of Snappy’s funds,” the Superior Court wrote. “(Malone’s) evidence that (Addleman) engaged in similar generosity at her previous job directly challenges the inference the Commonwealth sought the jury to make.”

Assistant District Attorney Josh Bower, who prosecuted the case, declined to comment. The district attorney’s office may ask the state Supreme Court to review the decision and also may bring Addleman to trial again with 180 days, Malone said.

She and Addleman may also consider any potential plea offers or file any motions as though Addleman was never convicted, Malone said.

“It’s been probably the hardest thing she’s ever been through in her life,” Malone said. “This definitely enlightened her as to what people go through when they’re charged with crimes, particularly when they’re innocent of the crime. ... It’s very hard to prove a negative — to prove that you didn’t do something. As anyone who has ever been charged with a crime can attest, the deck is stacked against you from the moment someone accuses you. ... From the moment you are accused, you start out in a hole that you have to try to dig yourself out of.”

Bret Pallotto primarily reports on courts and crime for the Centre Daily Times. He grew up in Lewistown and graduated from Lock Haven University.