published Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Trial date set for ex-official in theft

Charged with 19 counts related to stealing city money, a former city official stood outside Hamilton County Criminal Court, hoping for a deal to end a six-year saga that has wrecked his life.

But Kenardo Curry, former director of Chattanooga's Neighborhood Services department, must wait even longer after he and his attorney rejected a plea bargain Tuesday.

Curry's trial was set to start Tuesday but last-minute negotiations collapsed, and he now has a trial set for Oct. 23.

His attorney, Dan Ripper, and prosecutor Bret Alexander were in plea negotiations until minutes before the hearing. Afterward, all three declined to comment on the case.

Curry faces 17 theft charges and a single charge each of official misconduct and fraudulent use of a credit card.

A 2004 audit, conducted shortly after the election of Mayor Ron Littlefield, revealed "questionable" charges by Curry with city credit cards. Court records allege improper spending began in 2003. A grand jury indicted Curry in 2006.

The audit showed that Curry used $25,000 of city money to purchase four pairs of earrings, electronic recording equipment, digital cameras, a DVD player, a television, two airplane tickets and work on painting, heating and air conditioning systems at the Church of God of Prophecy.

In his denied request for pretrial diversion filed last year, Curry blamed co-workers and his position as department director for the charges he faces. Pretrial diversion would have kept him out of jail and possibly expunged the charges from his record after he completed probation and other court-ordered requirements.

The same request stated that the ordeal had "destroyed" his reputation in the community and standard of living. At the time Curry was working at Walmart.

"He has lost close friends and associations and essentially had to recreate his life in most every way," Ripper wrote in the request.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Curry's former co-worker, Jennifer Center, last year when evidence seized at her home was mistakenly destroyed by Chattanooga police.

Center had been charged on 12 theft counts and accused of stealing more than $25,000 from city coffers through fraudulent purchases, according to archives.

Tiffany Leigh Bercher, Mark Kleiner and Sandra Love all received judicial diversion for a single theft charge each.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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