A man who was accused of “stealing” an NRL star’s winning $10,000 TAB ticket has been cleared of the charge, in what a magistrate called an “usual and rare” case.
Police alleged Jake Linardos, 25, dishonestly took the appealing ticket from former NRL great Beau Champion when he picked it up from the gaming area of the Doncaster Hotel in the suburb of Kensington in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Downing Centre Local Court heard he “looked around the room” before collecting it off the ground.
A jury acquitted the punter of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception last year, before the Director of Public Prosecutions sought to prosecute Mr Linardos on the back-up charge of larceny.
Today, Magistrate Michael Maher ordered the larceny charge to be dropped, ruling continuing proceedings would be an “abuse of process,” meaning Mr Linardos has been completely cleared of any criminal wrongdoing over the incident.
The decision ends a complex two-year legal battle over Mr Linardos’ lucky find on August 10, 2020.
Magistrate Maher outlined CCTV evidence from the trial, which showed Mr Linardos eyeing off the betting slip on the ground and looking around the room before pocketing it.
Instead of handing the ticket in, he kept it and collected the $9787 cash prize.
During the trial, the prosecution alleged Linardos dishonestly took the “property” without consent, knowing it belonged to someone else and believing it could be found but took it regardless.
It claimed his action of putting the ticket into the machine to cash the winnings was also dishonest and went to a different location to “steal” the money.
Magistrate Maher said the crown showed the jury where the ticket was on the otherwise clear floor.
“The accused looked around and looked at the voucher and looked around the room again and only then put the voucher in his pocket,” he said.
“It was suggested by the crown he acted like that as he knew it wasn’t his voucher. They submitted to the jury at the time (that) he did that because he knew he’d be detected, so he was dishonest.”
But the defence team argued the ticket had been “abandoned or discarded” and Linardos’ conduct was “innocent”.
The jury was not convinced of the prosecution case and found him not guilty.
Magistrate Maher said it was his view the jury accepted the taking of the ticket was in fact innocent, and the dishonesty charge relied upon a finding of theft.
Following Mr Linardos’ acquittal of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, the District Court judge who presided over trial would have ordinarily heard the back-up charge of larceny, Magistrate Maher said.
But that judge took up a position with the Supreme Court and the larceny proceedings instead landed back in the local court before himself.
“The circumstances for which this case is before me is highly unusual and rare,” Magistrate Maher said.
Ultimately, Magistrate Maher found the evidence that would be brought in the larceny proceedings would imitate that heard in the trial evidence in which Mr Linardos was found not guilty, and acquitted him of the larceny charge.
He ordered a permanent stay – or discontinuing – of the proceedings.
Mr Champion played for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Melbourne Storm, Gold Coast Titans and Parramatta Eels in the NRL, before an injury suffered in 2015 forced him into retirement.