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Former Bethlehem cop denied ARD in theft

The Morning Call,
Link to Article

Bethlehem, PA

2011-04-06_INT_Former Bethlehem cop denied ARD in theft_01
Former Bethlehem Police Officer Cheryl Ruth, shown at the department headquarters in December, 2004. (Harry Fisher / Morning Call file photo)

Cheryl Ruth is charged with stealing $19,000 from property room.

A retired Bethlehem police sergeant accused of stealing more than $19,000 from the department's property room was denied entry into a first-offenders' program on Wednesday.

Cheryl Ruth, who faces theft and receiving stolen property charges, was recommended for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition by Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli after she made full restitution. But her application for the ARD program couldn't win the approval of Judge Emil Giordano.

"Judge Giordano denied her ARD," said defense attorney Joshua Fulmer. Asked whether his client will now be going to trial, Fulmer said, "We'll address that with the district attorney's office."

Ruth, 47, of Moore Township was charged with taking cash seized by police from 2000 to 2007 while she worked as the property room's officer. She told investigators she used the money to gamble in Atlantic City, according to court records.

The rejection came as another former Bethlehem police officer facing a criminal charge withdrew his request to be placed into the same program. Under ARD, defendants avoid a conviction provided they complete a period of probation and pay court costs and fines. But the applications also require an acceptance of responsibility.

Michael Lenner, 29, of Bethlehem was fired from the police force last month in the wake of his arrest on a tampering with evidence charge. Lenner is appealing his termination in Northampton County Court, arguing it was excessive, and that he is innocent of the criminal allegation.

County prosecutors say Lenner destroyed a surveillance video of a March 2010 arrest that was being probed due to allegations of police brutality.

The officer who was being investigated for excessive force, John Nye, was eventually cleared by the district attorney's office. Like Lenner, Nye was also fired by Bethlehem City Council, and is challenging that decision in court.

In Lenner's appeal, defense attorney Philip Lauer wrote that his client "may have made untruthful or misleading statements" to internal investigators and "may have been guilty of conduct unbecoming of an officer for having done so."

"He was not, however, guilty of falsifying or altering evidence," Lauer argued.

Wednesday was the court's monthly day for processing defendants into ARD. Among those accepted was a Palmer Township woman accused of stealing more than $24,000 from a youth soccer league.

Sara E. Lemmerman, 34, is the former treasurer of Blue Mountain Youth Soccer League. Charged with taking money for seven months ending in May, Lemmerman was able to pay back all of the missing funds.

The league's president, Thomas Barrow of Bethlehem Township, has said the resolution is frustrating, especially given the "betrayal of trust." Morganelli says ARD allows the league to get its money back more quickly than if Lemmerman was tried and convicted.


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