Austin pleads no contest in grand theft at Mt. SAC in Walnut

A former Mt. San Antonio College fire chief
accused of stealing nearly $1 million from students and the college
pleaded no contest Tuesday to 16 felony charges, Los Angeles County
prosecutors said.

Jerry Dewayne Austin, 57, of Norco, was released from custody
after pleading no contest to two felony counts of identity theft, two
felony counts of forgery and 12 felony counts of grand theft at his jury
trial hearing at Pomona Superior Court, Los Angeles County Deputy
District Attorney James Belna said.

Austin, who was arrested in January, could be sentenced to two to five years in prison with time served, officials said.

“We were basically prepared for trial and we would have gone
to trial if we couldn’t settle it. We felt this was the best option
under all the circumstances,” Austin’s attorney Early Hawkins said.

“We felt that at the end of the day we’d possibly be in the
same place,” Hawkins said. “I don’t think he’s a thief and I will
continue to say that, and given everything that’s happened I think we’re
satisfied with today and we’ll continue to march on.”

A sentencing hearing and restitution hearing to determine how
much money Austin will have to pay back to students and Mt. SAC once
he’s released from prison is scheduled for Feb. 24.

“We’re pleased the case is coming to some resolution, but we
will await the judge’s final decision regarding the sentencing,” Mt. SAC
spokeswoman Jill Dolan said. “We remain committed to obtaining restitution to the college and the students.”

Read more in Juliette Fumes story Contest.