By Lauren Williams
9:10 PM PST, November 15, 2012
Nearly 10 months after a jury found him guilty of misappropriating public funds, former Newport-Mesa Unified Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard wants the verdicts overturned.
Hubbard's counsel submitted an opening brief this week in the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal on grounds that he wasn't capable of committing the crimes of which he was convicted.
"He was unjustly convicted, and I hope he'll be acquitted on appeal," said attorney Hillel Chodos, who along with co-counsel Philip Kaufler is representing Hubbard for the appeal.
The attorneys claim Hubbard didn't have the power to order an unauthorized bonus and an increased car allowance for a former subordinate, Karen Anne Christiansen, 54, when the two worked for the Beverly Hills Unified School District. Hubbard joined Newport-Mesa after working in Beverly Hills, and was fired following his conviction on a pair of felonies in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Hubbard's lawyers contend that others in Beverly Hills failed to follow proper protocols when Christiansen's compensation was enhanced. They also contend that emails that the court declined to order the district to recover would have exonerated him.
The payments were not clandestine and Hubbard followed normal procedure, his attorneys assert in their filing.
"Hubbard made no secret of his determination that Christiansen was to receive the $500 per month car allowance and the $20,000 stipend," they wrote.
During Hubbard's Los Angeles trial, a prosecutor contended that Hubbard bumped Christiansen's monthly car allowance from $150 a month to $500 and gave her $20,000 in a bonus without the school board's knowledge.
Jurors heard testimony that one school administrator saw Christiansen sitting on Hubbard's lap, and emails of a sexual nature between Hubbard and Christiansen were pointed to as evidence of a possible motive for the illegal payments. His defense called the emails "jokingly suggestive."
The Beverly Hills district persuaded the L.A. district attorney's office to file charges against Christiansen and Hubbard to get more time before a lawsuit brought by Christiansen against the school district would go to trial, Hubbard's defense claimed in the brief.
"Hubbard was targeted for the criminal action along with Christiansen, partly because of the car allowance and stipend, but also because he had provided a declaration and a deposition to Christiansen in the civil action supporting her position and contradicting various claims made by the BHUSD in the civil action," the brief read.
The California Attorney General's office must file a response by Dec. 13.