SAN JOSE -- A California appeals court overturned a restitution order in a Santa Cruz County theft case in which thousands of dollars in jewelry were stolen, but the justices took issue with arguments on both side.
Joseph Michael Gomez pleaded guilty in Santa Cruz Superior Court in March 2010 to grand theft and was sentenced to three years of probation. He also was ordered to pay $48,481 in restitution for the replacement costs of the stolen jewelry.
Gomez filed an appeal, arguing that he shouldn't have had to pay any more than $18,841, which he claimed was the "actual" value of the stolen property as reported by the victims.
The appeal hinged largely on whether a court may rely upon the victims' estimated value of the jewelry that included appreciation. That is, the victims claimed restitution for a gold ring purchased in 1982 should be based on the current cost of gold and not the cost of the piece at time of sale.
The justices of the 6th District Court of Appeal offered a nuanced decision last week, contending that there were issues with the restitution order all around.
"Although we assume the trial court was attempting to come to a fair disposition, the record does not demonstrate that the court used a rational method for determining the replacement cost of the itemized property," the justices wrote.
The justices ruled the appreciated value of stolen property can be used as evidence of the replacement cost of like property, but argued that in Gomez's case, there was no evidence the jewelry's value had, in fact, appreciated.
The justices also took issue with Judge Paul Marigonda's decision to lower by 25 percent the original restitution claim of $64,642.
"The court did not leave a clear statement explaining how it decided upon a 25 percent reduction," the justices wrote. "Neither party has shown that the amount of restitution ordered by the court can be rationally explained by the evidence presented."
Based on their examination of the case, the justices overturned the restitution order and sent it back to the trial court.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter at Twitter.com/jmpasko96