UPDATED STORY | Read the updated story: Verdict reached in case against Debora Goyette
PITTSFIELD — During closing arguments in her trial on charges of larceny and falsifying books, Debora Goyette was described as a "fox watching the henhouse," by the prosecution and painted as a wrongfully accused employee by her attorney.
Goyette, 46, of Pittsfield, has pleaded not guilty to charges she stole up to $170,000 from residents of the Hillcrest Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Valentine Road in Pittsfield between January 2009 and October 2012.
Her attorney, Leonard Cohen, asked jurors dozens of times during his 45-minute closing argument, "are you convinced beyond a reasonable doubt?" as he made his argument for her innocence.
Cohen said Goyette was a loyal and well-liked employee of the home and had received positive performance reviews during the period being investigated.
He argued Goyette's behavior at work was not that of a person trying to cover up theft, but of someone repeatedly asking for a more secure office.
He said Goyette asked for tighter security measures in her office, which handled financial accounts for the residents, including a safe, a camera, a computer and a filing cabinet.
Those requests were either denied, Cohen said, or — in the case of the computer and filing cabinet — were accessible by most of the office staff, defeating their purpose.
Cohen also said a potential alternate suspect wasn't investigated by police, because they weren't informed that person — who took over Goyette's duties after she was fired — was later fired herself for theft of patient funds.
Regular reports filed with the company headquarters and with agencies like Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration and others who disbursed money to residents showed no discrepancies, Cohen said.
In his closing argument, First Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Paul J. Caccaviello countered that point by noting, if that was evidence of a lack of wrongdoing, then no money would be missing at all, instead of the approximately $170,000 that a 500-hour audit showed had been illicitly removed from patients' accounts during that period.
Caccaviello said Goyette was in charge of the accounts and had created the shopping system patients used to have items purchased for them, and that system lacked any checks or balances to ensure the cash was being handled properly.
Police did not investigate the person Cohen suggested may be responsible for the missing money, because the thefts for which they were fired did not occur until over a year after Goyette's dismissal.
"Police didn't know about it, because it hadn't happened yet," Caccaviello said.
Caccaviello also argued if someone else had been siphoning money from patient accounts, it should have been noticed by Goyette, who was in charge of maintaining those accounts.
Jurors received the case and began their deliberations Thursday afternoon. They will resume deliberations on Friday.