Bruce guilty of church theft

After more than two weeks of evidence presentation and testimony, and two days of deliberation, a jury returned a verdict of guilty for Daria Bruce — the former Westside church employee who had been accused of stealing donations — yesterday in 5th Circuit Court.

Bruce stood completely still and showed no emotion as her attorney, William Feldhacker, requested a polling of the 12-member jury, requiring them to stand, one by one, and confirm that they agreed with the guilty verdict.

The verdict was unanimous.

“The jury did their job,” said deputy prosecuting attorney Mauna Kea Trask. “They listened to all the evidence and they made their decision.”

Feldhacker declined to comment on behalf of his client.

Bruce, 62, of ‘Ele‘ele, was fired from Kalaheo’s Holy Cross Church and its ‘Ele‘ele satellite Sacred Heart Parish in April 2005 after an investigation undercovered that she had abused her role as church secretary to move some $85,000 in donated funds first to the Filipino Catholic Club, a “booster” organization in which she served as treasurer and later president, and finally to her personal banking accounts, over a span of six years, Trask said in his Aug. 5 opening remarks.

After an arduous jury selection process, Trask called some eight witnesses, Feldhacker called some five more, and the jury worked its way through thousands of pages of documents, checks and financial statements.

Because a calculator was never technically entered into evidence, 5th Circuit Chief Judge Randal Valenciano denied a jury request for one during deliberation, forcing them to do the math by hand.

Bruce was convicted of theft in the first degree, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Aside from a jail term, Bruce could be forced to pay restitution for the amount of money she stole. The court’s probation office will be conducting a diagnostic report in the coming months to assist Valenciano in sentencing, he said.

Bruce has no prior convictions in the state of Hawai‘i, according to Kaua‘i Police Department records.

Valenciano will determine Bruce’s sentence at a hearing on Dec. 4, making the case possibly the first to be adjudicated under the term of current Councilwoman and incoming County Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, who is running unopposed and will likely take office on Dec. 1, replacing Craig De Costa.

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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