WARREN - A city employee charged with stealing 15 copies of the Tribune Chronicle out of a coin box pleaded no contest Thursday to a misdemeanor theft charge.
Warren Municipal Court Judge Terry Ivanchak said he would take the plea under advisement and allow Dennis J. Griffing, 52, who works in Warren's operations department, a chance to complete a theft diversion program offered through the court. The judge said Griffing meets the criteria for the program since he has no criminal record.
If Griffing successfully completes the program, the judge can dismiss the charge against him.
Ivanchak said representatives with the Tribune Chronicle also have the opportunity to ask the court for a ''legally sufficient'' restitution figure that Griffing would be required to pay.
Griffing was scheduled to appear again at 10:15 a.m. Oct. 10 in front of Ivanchak.
After he was arrested April 17, Griffing reportedly told a detective from the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office that he routinely stole papers out of different boxes around town. He said he took them to work and would pass the newspapers out to fellow employees.
Griffing, the brother of Warren Auditor David Griffing, was caught when sheriff's Maj. Tom Stewart set up surveillance of Griffing leaving his home for work at 6:15 a.m. The detective followed him to Save-A-Lot, and at 6:41 a.m. Stewart said he saw him put money in the coin machine and pull out 15 copies of the newspaper.
Stewart said he pulled Griffing's car over in the grocery store parking lot and recovered the newspapers in his car.
Officials at the Tribune Chronicle said newspaper thefts in general over the past year have been significant and the newspaper will pursue charges in connection with any thefts.