The Daytona Beach News-Journal, news-journalonline.com
BYLINE: FRANK FERNANDEZ, Staff writer:
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Flagler County, FL
BUNNELL -- Former Flagler County Sheriff's Deputy Matthew Koenig was on the other end of the DNA swab Tuesday after pleading no contest to felony grand theft.
Koenig was an evidence technician with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office when he was arrested in January and accused of stealing $4,847 from a dozen envelopes in the evidence vault, replacing the cash with napkins.
Circuit Judge Raul Zambrano sentenced Koenig to 60 days in jail followed by five years' probation, according to the terms of a plea agreement. Koenig also agreed to surrender his law enforcement certificate.
So, on Tuesday, Koenig -- who in April 2007 was one of two deputies recognized by the Sheriff's Office for solving a string of burglaries -- found himself opening his mouth so a bailiff could take the customary DNA swab from defendants bound for jail.
Koenig, 40, could have received up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine for the third-degree felony grand theft. Prosecutors dropped a felony charge of official misconduct against Koenig as part of the agreement.
Koenig must also pay restitution of $4,800 to the Flagler County Sheriff's Office and $1,000 for the cost of prosecution to the State Attorney's Office. He must also perform 50 hours of community service and write an apology letter to the Sheriff's Office.
The only issue not decided in the plea agreement was whether Koenig would be adjudicated guilty by Zambrano.
Koenig's defense attorney, Michael Politis, asked that adjudication be withheld.
"He has no prior criminal record," Politis said. "We ask the court to withhold as it customarily would for any other person that came before it in this kind of circumstances. We can't forgive. We can't accept why, but extenuating circumstances with his health, he's a father, he's got two kids ... the situation with his health, with the economy, things like that. It doesn't excuse it, but it does give the court an explanation. He is going to jail, which is sometimes out of the ordinary for these types of matters."
Politis said the most serious of Koenig's health issues is diabetes.
"Give him an opportunity to continue on with his life once he pays for this particular crime so he can provide for his family," Politis said. "He is volunteering his law enforcement certificate so he will not be placed in that position again."
Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis said the Sheriff's Office asked that Koenig be adjudicated or found guilty.
Zambrano opted to withhold adjudication.
Still, a withholding of adjudication would count against Koenig if he should ever gets into trouble with the law again. Some employers also ask whether a job applicant has ever had adjudication withheld.
Koenig declined comment after the hearing.
Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debra Johnson declined comment Tuesday regarding the withholding of adjudication.
Koenig had worked at the Sheriff's Office since 1998 and was earning $46,927 a year when he was fired Jan. 23 after his arrest.
The investigation began after another evidence technician opened an envelope and discovered the cash was missing.
Koenig's DNA was found on the envelopes and the napkins, according to court records. Investigators also discovered "unexplained deposits" in Koenig's personal checking account from 2009 to 2010.
Investigators asked four Sheriff's Office employees with access to the evidence vault to submit to DNA tests. Three of the four agreed. Investigators later served a search warrant on Koenig, according to the charging affidavit.
Koenig had been in trouble before. In October 2008, Koenig was a Sheriff's Office investigator when he was placed on paid administrative leave while investigators checked a complaint by his mortgage company that he had burglarized his former house, which had been foreclosed upon. That same month, the mortgage lender voluntarily dropped its complaint against Koenig.
It was a precipitous fall for Koenig, who helped solve a notorious string of burglaries in 2005 when four local high school wrestlers broke into homes, some just days before Christmas to steal presents. Koenig and then Sheriff's Office detective Jason Jolicoeur, who is now with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, were recognized for their work, which led to 20 cases being cleared and about $10,000 worth of stolen property being recovered, Johnson said.
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