Unplanned: Legault pleads guilty

As event planners, both Lynn Easton Andrews and J.F. Legault have made careers out of prepping for big days. But no amount of planning could have made Tuesday, June 15 enjoyable: that was the day Legault, who now runs The Event Company, pleaded guilty in Albemarle Circuit Court to embezzlement from Easton Events, the event planning company Andrews started in 1998. The two had teamed up from 1999 until 2002, though the exact legal nature of their partnership is not clear from court filings.

Legault in particular may wish he could erase the past year. In November, the Clifton Inn, of which Legault is managing director, was nearly destroyed by a pre-dawn blaze that took the lives of two guests, Billie Kelly and Trish Langlade, recruiters for a New York law firm.

At the time of the blaze, Legault had already been charged with embezzlement– he was indicted on September 15.

Though the court records show only that he obtained an amount greater than $200– making it an "unclassed felony"– Albemarle County assistant commonwealth's attorney Rick Moore says the basis for the charge was two checks Legault wrote to himself between January 8, 2001, and March 2003 for an approximate total of $13,000.

Both Legault and Andrews declined comment, as did Legault's attorney, Fred Heblich. Moore says Legault has repaid the money in full. But because an earlier plea agreement that would have guaranteed him no jail time was rejected by the court earlier this spring, Legault now awaits sentencing on August 25.

Moore says Legault could face up to 20 years in prison and/or a $2,500 fine. But he points out that sentencing guidelines for a first-time offender like Legault suggest probation rather than incarceration.