Former cheer coach pleads guilty to embezzlement
After nearly six months of court appearances, former SF State cheer coach Ashlee Nicole Haley pled guilty to one count of embezzlement Monday.
The prosecution recommended to Judge Jeff Ross that Haley be sentenced to three years probation with credit for time served, 200 hours of community service, and pay restitution in the amount of $14,864.02.
Haley, who was accused of accepting $20,000 from her teammates and using the money for personal expenditures, was initially charged with 12 counts of grand theft, 16 counts of obtaining money under false pretenses and one count of embezzlement, all of which were dismissed—excluding the embezzlement charge.
When Haley last appeared in court March 1, the defense and the prosecution were haggling over the amount of restitution due after Haley’s claim that some funds she was charged with embezzling actually went to teammates’ uniforms. The final amount she will pay reflects the money actually spent on the uniforms.
The decision not to give Haley jail time was based on the attitudes of some of the other cheerleaders from whom the money was taken.
“Most of the victims wanted restitution versus jail time,” said Sanaz Nakein, district attorney for the case who specializes in large-sum embezzlement cases. “That’s something we took into consideration.”
As a part of her probation, Haley will also have to submit to searches at any time with or without probable cause.
After paying the restitution and completing her community service hours – 93 of which have been completed as of Feb. 10 – Haley will be allowed to have her charge dropped from a felony to a misdemeanor.
“It’s not likely that we’ll object to this,” Nakein said.
After the trial, Haley issued a written statement via e-mail to her public defender Sujung Kim.
“Ms. Haley apologizes to her fellow cheerleaders and others in the SFSU cheerleading organization for her actions,” said Kim in the statement. “She admits she made mistakes and understands that she betrayed their trust in her. Ms. Haley takes responsibility for her actions and will fully compensate those who suffered financial loss.”
The city first filed the charges Sept. 16 and Haley pled not guilty. As the case progressed, however, the two sides began working on a deal.
While serving as cheer coach, Haley obtained money from at least 20 students, 17 giving at least $1,000, claiming that the money would go toward a voluntary cheer camp in Southern California and new uniforms.
She had access to funds because of her status as team treasurer, according to district attorney spokesman Seth Steward.
Police reports claimed that Haley, 24, used the money for rent, food and a trip to Las Vegas, among other things.
When Haley was charged, the University received criticism for her trial’s controversy and another embezzlement case involving fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. But none of the funds came from SF State.
“The University appreciates the district attorney’s work on this case,” said University spokeswoman Ellen Griffin in a e-mail. “(SF State) is pleased that restitution will be made.”
Haley’s former teammates are glad to be receiving money back, but some of the cheerleaders have not gone through the process of applying for restitution.
“We’re happy,” said cheer team member Nicole Pedro, despite being among some of the cheer members who did not request her money be returned. Pedro lost only $50 while Haley was cheer coach.
“A lot of us just didn’t care anymore,” Pedro said. “It’s mostly because some of us didn’t lose that much. Those who gave her a significant amount of money for uniforms were the ones who really wanted money back.”
The money returned will not be used toward the cheer team, but simply as payback for losses.
Ross will officially sentence Haley April 8 at 9 a.m. at the Hall of Justice.