The felony stealing case against former Jefferson City business owner Ann Metternich ended earlier this month when Cole County Circuit Judge Dan Green granted Metternich's request to dismiss it.
Metternich's attorney, Daniel Hunt, told the News Tribune on Thursday he filed the motion to dismiss based on a state court of appeals ruling that was issued two years ago this week, overturning Metternich's previous conviction and sentence on a felony stealing charge.
Green's Dec. 13 order also closed the case's public record on Case.net, the Missouri court system's online docketing program, since the case no longer is pending and "there is a disposition in Ms. Metternich's favor," Hunt said.
Metternich, who now lives in Iowa, once owned Victoria's Bridal, 722 Jefferson St., and was charged by a Cole County grand jury in October 2011 with stealing clothing from Anderson's Formal Wear, a Minnesota company that provides tuxedos for rental through local stores.
After a judge-tried trial in April 2015, Green convicted Metternich of stealing parts of eight tuxedos from Anderson's and fined her $1,600 — the "approximate value" of the clothing.
In his written verdict, issued in December 2015, Green wrote: "On April 23, 2009, Anderson's Formal Wear mistakenly delivered eight tuxedos to Victoria's Bridal Boutique that they intended to ship to a store in Odessa called Special Occasions.
"This Court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that these tuxedos (eight coats and seven pants were) property owned by and provided by Anderson's Formal Wear, that the defendant appropriated this property without the consent of Anderson's Formal Wear and with the purpose to deprive Anderson's Formal Wear thereof."
Anderson's officials had testified during the April 2015 trial that they had calculated that Metternich had taken an estimated $10,000 worth of tuxedo pieces, including 60 coats and 59 pants, to fill customer orders — and then had not returned them.
Green's written verdict made no mention of that claim.
Under the law Green used for his sentence, he also could have imposed a prison sentence of up to seven years, but ordered only the $1,600 fine.
Hunt appealed the conviction and sentence and, on Dec. 27, 2016, a three-judge state appeals court panel in Kansas City ruled Metternich could not be found guilty of felony stealing, because of a state Supreme Court ruling that was issued 16 months after her trial.
In August 2016, the seven-member Missouri Supreme Court unanimously ruled the Legislature's 2002 amendment to the state's stealing law made stealing a felony crime only when "the value of property or services is an element" of the crime — replacing the previous definition of stealing as a felony if "the value of the property or services appropriated is $750 or more."
The original language was restored in the state law with the criminal code re-write that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017 — too late to affect the Metternich case.
Because Green had used the 2002 legal language that the Supreme Court later overturned, Appeals Court Judge Mark D. Pfeiffer wrote: "Any such felony conviction must be reversed and the case remanded."
The appeals court sent the case back to Green so he could hold "proceedings consistent with this opinion" — but no new court appearances or arguments had been scheduled since the Cole County Circuit Court received the appeals court's mandate in January 2017.
The appeals court's ruling did not eliminate the possibility of a conviction for a Class A misdemeanor under the state law, with a possible punishment being no more than a year in the county jail and/or a maximum $1,000 fine.
But, with the case being dismissed, not only were Metternich's 2015 conviction and $1,600 fine erased, but no new conviction or sentencing options are available.
Cole County Prosecutor Mark Richardson didn't respond to a request for a comment for this story.