Smoke Break case dismissed

Aston, Davis say they’re innocent; Smith says she’ll file civil suit

By KRIS REILLY, Editor

LUCERNE VALLEY • Two former employees accused of stealing from the Lucerne Valley Smoke Break store had their case dismissed due to a lack of evidence, court records show.

The prosecution made a motion Nov. 16 to dismiss the misdemeanor embezzlement charges against Linda Lee Davis and Lisa Marie Aston due to “insufficient evidence to prosecute.”

Lucerne Valley Smoke Break owner Anita Smith accused Aston and Davis of giving away cigarettes for free and/or trading them for pills last year at the store, located on Highway 18 just east of Baker Road.

In a December 2011 article, Smith told former Leader reporter Doug Saunders that the two employees were seen on surveillance video giving away cigarettes by the carton, and Smith estimated that she had lost thousands of dollars worth of product.

In an interview with The Leader last week, both women vehemently denied the accusations.

“There was video, but it didn’t show (theft),” Aston said. “(Smith) said we were carrying cases of stuff out the door. And she said that I was trading drugs for cigarettes. Obviously I would be in jail (if that were true).”

Smith also claimed that Davis sent her text messages apologizing for stealing. Davis said she never sent any such messages.

After a year’s worth of court proceedings, the matter was scheduled to finally go to trial last month before the case was dismissed.

Though the criminal case is over, Smith said last week that she plans to file a civil suit against Davis and Aston but has not yet hired an attorney.

“My opinion is still exactly what it was a year ago,” Smith said. “I’ve been over this again and again with the DA. Nobody over there seemed to know what was going on. They’ve got copies of my security tapes. They’ve got copies of text messages from Linda to me. ... A thief is a thief.”

Smith said the District Attorney’s office told her it was difficult to prove the alleged theft because the employees were paid entirely in cash, taking home a cut of their sales at the end of each shift.

Aston and Davis said the fact that they were told to pay themselves in cash is what led to Smith’s allegations in the first place.

“We paid ourselves out of the register every day, cash,” Aston said. “So that could look like we’re taking money or whatever.”

Deputy District Attorney Tiffany Hidalgo was handling the case. Hidalgo did not return a voicemail message from The Leader seeking comment last week. The Leader also attempted to reach Davis and Aston’s attorney last week, but a phone message had not been returned as of press time.

“(Smith) slandered us all over town,” Davis said. “It was hard to deal with. ... After all this slander we want to clear our names.”