NEW CANAAN — Former lunch ladies Marie Wilson, 67, and Joanne Pascarelli, 61, accused of pilfering nearly $500,000 from school cafeterias in the past five years, were sitting next to each other Monday in Courtroom 1B of state Superior Court in Stamford.
Unlike their first court appearance, the sisters were not wearing sunglasses in the courtroom, but they still did not comment to questions from reporters.
Both seldom spoke in the courtroom until Wilson’s attorney, Christine Landis from the law offices of Mark Sherman, sat next to them on a wooden bench near the courtroom exit.
Wilson was called first at around 11:25 a.m. by Judge Gary White — in less than 10 minutes, both sisters were out in the hallway in discussion with their lawyers.
“At this point, there is a request for additional documents from the state and so we’ll be looking at that evidence in the coming weeks,” Landis said.
Landis noted the judge had not requested pleas on Monday; Mark Sherman, who accompanied Wilson last week, had previously said they would file a not-guilty plea at the appropriate time.
The sisters did not respond to questions as they left the court, shielding their faces from reporters’ cameras and the rain with their umbrellas.
Darnell Crosland, the attorney for Pascarelli who entered a not-guilty plea in Norwalk last week, said he felt optimistic about the case. He said he would be reviewing evidence in the coming weeks that would include video testimonies and spreadsheets from the police investigation.
“I’ve made an official request for discovery, which is any evidence (the prosecution) has against (Pascarelli) that could exonerate her,” Crosland said. “I inquired to the prosecutors that if there’s any exculpatory evidence, they have to turn that over too.”
Like last week, Crosland argued the school’s loss was a result of systemic negligence.
“If the new system processes people in the lunch line quicker, they’re obviously going to make more money. If there is more efficiency, there is going to be more profitability,” Crosland said.
In the arrest warrant issued in August, police said the scam could have been going on for 15 or more years, but were advised to limit the investigation to five years due to statutes of limitations.
The investigation began in December when the Board of Education filed a complaint with police regarding “financial discrepancies” in the handling of cash at Saxe Middle and New Canaan High School cafeterias.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, in a briefing with media last Thursday, opined on the case, saying 14 parents had told him they believed their children had been overcharged over the years.
“In order to keep the revenues up, (cafeteria workers) were overcharging the kids with meal ticket and stealing the cash,” Moynihan said.
“Point is we’re joint insurers on the policy, and I think our rates are going to go up in the future for both the town and the board of education,” Moynihan said.
The defendants will report to court again in Stamford on Oct. 24.