A Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner ruled this week that Inglewood school board member Caroline Coleman must stand trial on a charge of embezzling more than $1,200 in district funds.
At a pretrial conference Tuesday, Commissioner Sam Bubrick set Coleman's trial for Sept. 19 after denying a request by her attorney, Johnnie Cochran, that the felony charge be dropped on grounds of insufficient evidence.
While acknowledging that the case "has obvious political overtones," Bubrick ruled that "there is enough evidence against the defendant" to let the case go to trial.
Coleman, 48, is accused of taking more than $1,200 in district funds to attend an education conference in New Orleans in November, 1983, and then failing to attend the conference. Prosecutors claim that Coleman filed phony expense vouchers for more than $1,500, including false plane-ticket receipts and a photocopy of an uncashed check for registration fees she claimed to have paid.
Upon receiving the expense claims, then-school board President William (Tony) Draper asked the Los Angeles district attorney's office to investigate Coleman, who is part of a faction on the school board that often has tangled with Draper.
Coleman, who has pleaded innocent, said Tuesday she is eager to get the matter resolved. A three-term board member, she has been suspended without pay from her job as a county probation officer. If convicted, she faces up to three years in prison, loss of the county job and removal from office.