Former Summit County victim advocate accepts plea deal in case involving nonprofit donations
A former Summit County victim advocate who was facing a felony count of misusing public money pleaded guilty Tuesday to a lesser charge in a deal with prosecutors.
Marsha Lynne Probst, 63, entered a guilty plea in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City to attempted misuse of public money, a class A misdemeanor. According to court documents, the plea was held in abeyance, meaning the charge will be dismissed if Probst complies with the terms of a plea agreement.
Probst was originally charged with a second-degree felony count of misusing public money.
Prosecutors alleged Probst broke the law by placing more than $5,000 in donations to the Summit County victim assistance program from Wasatch Womenade, a Park City nonprofit, into a private bank account between 2012 and 2017.
As part of the plea agreement, Probst was ordered to pay $5,349 in restitution to the Summit County victim assistance program. She was not sentenced to jail time.
Probst was a victim advocate in the Summit County Attorney’s Office from 2006 to 2017, providing support and resources for victims of crimes and their families.
Craig Peterson, who prosecuted the case on behalf of the Utah Attorney General’s Office, said in an interview that the plea agreement represents a just outcome in the case.
“In the end, I think it’s a fair resolution, taking into account she has no prior criminal history,” he said. “She was able to pay back complete restitution. … The county was made whole in what they’d lost in her actions, and it gives her an opportunity to clear her name.”
Gail Laser, Probst’s attorney, said her client admitted to putting the donations in a private bank account in pleading guilty to the reduced charge but that Probst maintains she did not use the money for personal transactions, as prosecutors claimed in the original charging documents.
Probst, Laser added, is eager to put the case behind her.
“It’s her position that she did nothing to hide that account, that others she worked with knew about it,” she said. “But for her to go through the rigor of a trial was just too much.”
3rd District Court Judge Patrick Corum earlier in May declined to dismiss the felony charge against Probst after Laser argued the donations from Wasatch Womenade were not public money and that Probst was not obligated in her position to report the donations or transfer them to the county. In a letter attached to a court filing, the director of Wasatch Womenade indicated the nonprofit did not intend for the donations to the victim assistance program to be controlled by Summit County.
Prosecutors maintained the intent of the nonprofit was irrelevant and that the donations were public money.
The case was moved from Summit County’s 3rd District Court to Salt Lake City at the request of the defense.
An investigation into Probst was initiated when her successor received a check from Wasatch Womenade after she stepped down from the role in 2017, Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson has said. Olson has said she was unaware the nonprofit had made previous donations. She referred the matter to the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
Olson declined to comment on the resolution of the case.
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