By JOHN ASBURY
A jury found the former director of a Moreno Valley hospital and the hospital's
former pediatrics chief not guilty Monday of embezzling $305,720 in Riverside
County funds and destroying public records, but convicted the pair of
keeping false time cards.
Donna Matney, 48, of Chino, former director of the Riverside County Regional
Medical Center, and Dr. Daniel Aldana, 39, of Corona, former pediatrics
chief, could each get four years in state prison when they are sentenced
on Sept. 21.
After deliberating for six days, the jury deadlocked 9-3 on a charge that
Matney misappropriated county funds. A unanimous verdict was needed for
a conviction. Aldana was found not guilty of the same charge.
"The jury's decision shows that neither defendant attempted to
steal or cause harm to the hospital," said Steven Harmon, the attorney
"We're obviously disappointed, but the jury has spoken and we
disagree with their decision," said Deputy District Attorney Michael
Cabral. "We believe there was fraudulent intent."
No decision has been made on whether to retry Matney on the charge that
the jury hung on, that she misappropriated county funds, Cabral said.
Aldana was already the pediatrics director when Matney hired him in December
2000 to do consulting work as a temporary county employee.
Aldana earned up to $50,000 annually for the consulting work, which a defense
attorney said involved improving operations at the hospital at a time
when it was struggling financially. His full-time hospital salary at the
time was $150,000, according to county records.
The two were convicted of falsifying county records because Matney signed
time cards presented by Aldana showing that Aldana was at work when he
was actually attending his own wedding and on vacation in Chile and Paris.
Matney was also accused by prosecutors of paying Aldana, in his role as
a consultant, for painting 10 pictures for the hospital's children's ward.
Matney's defense attorney, Virginia Blumenthal, said the paintings
were not a factor in the case.
She said the misappropriation charges came down to prosecutors accusing
Aldana of not doing his job, when actually hospital officials "got
their money's worth."