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Randy J. Gomes and Suzanne M. Pomey pleaded guilty to embezzling almost $100,000 from the Hasty Pudding Theatricals at a hearing Friday.
The two members of the Class of 2002 changed their original not guilty pleas as their lawyers argued they should avoid jail time and not have the guilty plea entered on their records.
But Middlesex County Assistant District Attorney Edward R. Bedrosian Jr. argued Gomes should serve nine months in jail and Pomey, 30 days.
Pomey was the producer of the Pudding’s annual drag show two years ago and Gomes was the assistant director of the group’s famed Man and Woman of the Year ceremonies in the same year.
Lena Demashkieh ’03, producer of last year’s Pudding show who, prosecutors say, discovered the discrepancies in the Pudding’s finances last spring, took the witness stand at the two-hour hearing in the Middlesex Superior Court. She asked the judge to sentence the two to jail time.
“They should be held to the highest standard,” she said.
Gomes and Pomey had originally pleaded not guilty to felony larceny at their Feb. 5 arraignment.
As they changed their pleas Friday, their lawyers argued the court should follow the procedure outlined in a 1971 Mass. Supreme Judical Court decision, Commonwealth v. Brandano.
According to the Brandano procedure, the lawyers argued, the court has the authority to reject a plea of guilty, offer pre-trial probation to the defendants, continue the case for a period of two years and ultimately dismiss the case without a final finding.
The two defendants sat in opposite corners of the room with their families until they were called by Judge Peter Agnes to change their pleas.
Pomey and Gomes then faced questioning from Agnes to make sure they understood the consequences of pleading guilty.
Agnes warned them that they risked conviction and a maximum penalty of five years in prison if he chose to accept their guilty pleas or was ordered to do so by an appellate court.
But Agnes also said that if he chose to impose a more severe punishment than the two years probation the defendants’ lawyers are asking for, he would allow them to take back their guilty pleas.
Bedrosian said Gomes should be sentenced to two and a half years in jail, with nine months served, 200 hours of community service and full restitution to the Pudding.
He asked that Pomey be sentenced to one year in prison, with 30 days to be served and 100 hours of community service. Pomey has already paid back the money she is accused of taking from the Pudding.
The judge will have to weigh a complex set of legal arguments from Pomey’s and Gomes’ attorneys.
He said there are two main issues he will have to rule on—whether a judge can decide not to accept a guilty plea and, if so, whether that decision is appropriate in this case.
Although Brandano allows for a judge to decline to accept a guilty plea, an Aug. 23 decision by the Supreme Judicial Court, Commonwealth v. Tim T., said a judge could not do so over the objections of the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth does object in this case and the defendants’ lawyers argued that Tim T. should not apply.
In Tim T., the defendant was a juvenile, while Pomey and Gomes are both 22 year old. Additionally, in Tim T. the defendant had not admitted the facts of the case.
Agnes’ questioning of Pomey and Gomes also revealed details of their personal lives.
Gomes said that in 2001 he was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and took Prozac for one year—overlapping with the time he was embezzling money from the Pudding.
“I’m currently debating going back on that cycle,” he told the court.
Pomey said she was a camp counselor and softball coach in Pennsylvania over the summer. Gomes said he worked as a retail manager.
Both defendants’ lawyers spoke at length in defense of their clients’ characters—each claiming the other defendant was at fault.
Michael DeMarco, one of Pomey’s lawyers, said she had “maintained an unblemished record” at Harvard.
“What she did had everything to do with her friendship and relationship with Randy Gomes,” he said. “When she saw his life spiraling downward she came to his aid…it was an effort to help Randy, initially. That’s what started this larcenous behavior.”
As he spoke, Demashkieh shook her head.
Pomey and Gomes were indicted last year after an investigation by the Harvard University Police Department.
Of the $91,000 the two allegedly stole, Gomes received about $68,000 of that money and Pomey got nearly $23,000, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors allege Pomey used the stolen funds for shopping sprees and spa visits and Gomes spent his share of the stolen money paying off drug dealers, buying electronics and travelling.
Several times while he spoke, DeMarco referred to Pomey as a “child.”
“I know she’s an adult,” he said, “but she’s still a very young person.”
He also said that after the indictment, she was no longer able to participate in the Teach for America program.
“She’s already seen the effects of what this can do to a young life,” he said.
DeMarco asked Pomey’s parents and older sister, who had flown in from Kentucky and California for the trial, to stand up.
“These are people who lived the dream of their child being admitted to Harvard,” he said.
Similarly, Cashman described the adverse effects the case has had on Gomes’ life. He said Gomes’ father, who is an educator, and his mother, a former employee of the telephone company, had to refinance their home to pay back the Pudding.
He said Gomes recently took the LSAT.
“He wants to be a lawyer,” Cashman said.
“Why did all this happen?” he asked. “He got mixed up with the wrong people and then drugs...That’s not an excuse for any of these actions, but it certainly does cloud someone’s judgement.”
He also questioned DeMarco’s portrayal of Gomes as primarily responsible for the crime.
“I was disappointed that this turned into a case with our clients pointing their fingers at one another,” he said. “Mr. Bedrosian goes on to suggest that they were partners...My client got into this secondarily.”
“He has a wonderful future if we could strike this from his career,” he said.
Pomey and Gomes will next appear in court Oct. 3, when the judge will decide whether or not to accept their pleas.
Gomes’ and Pomey’s attorneys could not be reached for comment. Gomes and Pomey have repeatedly declined requests for comment.
—Staff writer Amit R. Paley can be reached at email@example.com.
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