SLO DA's office waited 18 months to seek victim restitution



The SLO County criminal justice system got shortchanged after it waited a year and a half to seek victim’s restitution from a man convicted of a misdemeanor crime.

According to a recent ruling by the California 2nd District Court of Appeals, the SLO County District Attorney’s office waited too long to seek restitution in the case, which occurred under SLO County’s former District Attorney Gerry Shea.

That case began after the man, identified as Anthony Richard Theriault, was charged with making a criminal threat to a family member. He later pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor offense of disturbing the peace and was sentenced to one year of probation, according to the appellate court’s ruling.

Theriault’s probation ended March 9, 2011, but the DA’s office didn’t seek to obtain restitution for his victim until September 18, 2012. 

While a SLO Superior Court judge ordered him to pay that restitution, Theriault appealed the court decision soon after. 

“It was very unusual, especially for a misdemeanor,” said Stephen Dunkel, the lawyer who represented Theriault on the appeal. “The [DA’s office] didn’t have a very good reason for why they waited so long.”

Current SLO District Attorney Dan Dow was not elected to office until 2014, after Theriault’s plea, probation, and restitution order.

California law provides victims of crime the right to receive restitution directly from the person convicted of the crime against them, but the appellate court’s March 2 ruling stated that the trial court exceeded its authority when it ordered Theriault to pay that restitution after he served his probation.

Assistant District Attorney Lee Cunningham told New Times that Theriault’s restitution included costs that built up over a period of time, such as therapy for the victim. The state initially paid the costs but later asked the DA to seek that money from Theriault.

“By the time there was a total, the probationary period was up,” Cunningham said. 

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