Trial begins on Morgan theft

Published 10:38 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2012

More than a year after her indictment in June 2011, Janet Ellison went on trial Tuesday, accused in the theft of more than $56,000 from Morgan Academy.

In opening statements, the defense claimed Ellison to be the “fall person” in the case for former Morgan headmaster Randy Skipper. Her attorney P. Vaughan Russell said that throughout the trial this week, evidence would prove multiple people at the school had access to the file cabinet where the money was kept.

Barrown Lankster and Rick Williams, prosecuting the case, urged the jury to, “use common sense when the defense blames this on other people.”

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In Russell’s opening statement he went into multiple possible scenarios of what could have happened to the missing $56,000.

“She is taking the fall,” Russell said of Ellison. “Two people were bonded, Mr. Skipper and Mrs. Ellison. That means if the money is taken, the school gets its money back from an insurance company, if you are Mr. Skipper and the money is taken and you want that insurance money back, who are you going to accuse — yourself or the bookkeeper?”

Williams, in his statement, repeatedly made the point that Ellison was the person solely entrusted with the money and asked the jury, “At any time does Mrs. Ellison complain to Mr. Skipper or anyone on the board that there was some cash that was taken in that never got to the bank?”

He went on to explain Ellison was the only person who had access to the computerized accounting books and was the only one who took money to the bank. He also claimed she should have noticed if bank deposit slips did not meet that of what she had put in the books.

When Skipper was called to the stand, he was questioned about the access to Ellison’s room and cabinet where money was taken. Russell asked about how keys were made, who had access to keys and how often the locks were changed.

Skipper said the locks were only changed twice while he was employed at Morgan and the janitor made the keys and copies of the keys — he was unaware of how many copies had been made.

Though Russell suggested multiple people who could have been accused of the same theft, Ellison is the only suspect listed on the initial police report and is the only subject to be indicted after accountant, and Morgan Academy board chairman, Ira Wagner had conducted an investigation of the school’s financial situation.

“There was never an audit done by [Wagner] and he was not independent of your school was he,” Russell asked Skipper on the stand, speaking of Wagner’s investigation. Skipper agreed and confirmed Wagner was also on the school’s board.

The trial resumes Wednesday.