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Defendant’s mental competency questioned

Woman accused in $586,000 ZF embezzlement

POSTED: April 2, 2009 11:32 p.m.
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Baghose

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An attorney for a woman accused of embezzling more than half a million dollars from a Gainesville transmission plant has questioned her mental competency to stand trial.

Charlotte Jo Baghose, 67, was indicted in February 2008 on one count of theft by taking and 29 counts of first-degree forgery. She’s accused of stealing $586,000 from her employer, ZF Industries.

Baghose was a bookkeeper at the Palmour Drive plant, which at the time she was employed there had about 340 employees and did more than $300 million in business annually. The thefts are alleged to have occurred between August 2003 and July 2007.

Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin ordered that Baghose be evaluated by a forensic pyschologist after a doctor hired by the defendant’s lawyer wrote that Baghose had symptoms of "significant depression and confusion," according to court filings.

"She is not cognitively able to participate in a legal defense at this time," Dr. Michael Lyles wrote in a letter included in court files. "She would not understand the proceedings at hand and could not withstand the rigors of trial at this time. There is a chance that she may have a significant neurological impairment, independent of her psychiatric concerns."

Baghose’s attorney, Miles Stephen Cowan, was not available for comment Thursday. Hall County District Attorney Lee Darragh said he could not comment on a pending case outside of court.

A mental evaluation would focus on the narrow definition of mental competency to stand trial in Georgia: whether the defendant understands the nature and object of the court proceedings and her place in them and whether she can assist her lawyer in her own defense.

Baghose was arrested in September 2007 by Gainesville police.

The indictment alleges that Baghose forged at least 29 checks made payable to other employees, in amounts ranging from $956 to $2,528, then converted them to her own use. Of the 29 checks listed in the indictment, 16 were made out for exactly $1,600.

Baghose remains free on $10,000 bond.



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