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Los Angeles | IN BRIEF / LOS ANGELES

Judge Dismisses Charges Against Ex-Principal

December 11, 2001|From Times Staff Reports

A Superior Court judge Monday dismissed charges that a former school principal and another employee stole school funds in 1998.

The judge said prosecutors failed to present enough evidence to show that Gloria Mercado, 49, who was principal of Le Conte Middle School until 1998, and Richard Fortine, 64, who is now her husband, embezzled the funds.

They could have been sentenced to four years if they had been convicted.

Criminal cases are seldom dismissed at a preliminary hearing, which is conducted to determine whether the prosecution has enough evidence to justify a jury trial.

The district attorney's office had alleged that Mercado paid Fortine for work he didn't do. It also accused her of overpaying him by $140 for helping supervise parking in the school lot for shows being filmed by KTLA-TV studios.

"The whole thing encompassed about $2,000," said David Melnick, Fortine's lawyer.

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