PKG | Jury finds retired captain guilty of felony embezzlement
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It only took a jury two hours Friday afternoon before finding Dennis Streets, a retired captain with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department, guilty of felony embezzlement.
The seemingly quick verdict did not reflect the high hopes Streets and his defense had for this trial.
Last April, things appeared to be looking up for Streets, after a jury found him not guilty of fraudulent scheming.
They were, however, hung up on an embezzlement charge, forcing a mistrial.
"Conviction rates are a lot higher on second go arounds, just because there's no element of surprise anymore,” said Streets’ defense attorney Craig Manford. “Everybody has had a dress rehearsal."
Streets was indicted in January after investigators with the sheriff’s department alleged he stole 13 guns out of the evidence room, and sold them to a local gun shop.
In closing arguments, Manford told the jury it was all a mix up.
“He had a lot of different jobs at the sheriff's department. I really do think he was overwhelmed,” Manford told WHAG shortly after the trial.
Manford also called the trial a “witch hunt”, and told the jury his client shouldn’t have to take the fall for years of bad oversight from the sheriff’s department.
Streets had another character trait on his side: people liked him.
In court cases, it isn’t uncommon to have a defendant who comes across as unlikable, but that was not the case for Streets.
Everyone who testified about his character, even prosecution agreed, Streets was well liked and highly trusted during his 32 years at the sheriff’s department.
Streets was also highly trusted. Sheriff Kenny Lemaster even testified that he never felt the need to check up on the captain, who was the head person in charge of the evidence room.
"The defendant was well known to a lot of people at the court house,” said assistant prosecutor Tim Helman. “Everybody he interacted with on a professional level, really liked him."
In his closing arguments however, Helman argued that well liked doesn't mean innocent.
Helman reminded the jury Streets has over $38,000 worth of debt, after a series of unpaid medical bills and three evictions.
While Helman believes Streets sold the guns just to put food on the table, it was still a crime of embezzlement.
“We have a lot of very good officers here in Berkeley County, at the sheriff's department, as well as the state police and the Martinsburg City Police,” Helman told WHAG shortly after the trial. “With all the things going on in the media recently, it’s tough to be a cop right now. I kind of feel like this [verdict] was for them."
Streets could be sentenced anywhere from one to ten years in prison for the crime, but the judge has a number of sentencing options, including probation and community service.
Streets is scheduled to be sentenced on October 29th.