Former ACTV Head Gets 7 Years

Monday, former Austin Community Television Executive Director John Villarreal was sentenced to 7 years in jail for embezzling $354,000 from the public access station, bringing a nearly two-year cycle of accusation and investigation to an abrupt end.

Villarreal was suspended for nonperformance of duties December 21, 2004. Yet unbeknownst to the ACTV board, Villarreal had drafted a letter of resignation the day before, a cryptic, two-line note saying he was unable to perform his duties. His fast departure fueled speculation around the station that he pocketed operating funds from ACTV's bank account. Following investigation by the City Auditor's office and the District Attorney in March 2006, Villarreal was indicted for aggregated theft over $200,000, a felony. (With Villarreal's legacy firmly tarnished, ACTV was reborn under new management as Public Access Community Television, or PACT, in September of 2005.)

At sentencing Monday, several details of Villarreal's embezzlement were established. The largest portion, $193,000, was taken as straight cash, while $47,000 went to the purchase and lease of used cars. Villarreal also purchased season tickets for Longhorn football and paid off a student loan.

Villarreals's attorney Janet Stockard, citing the nonviolent nature of the crime, asked for probation for her client, while assistant D.A. Patty Robertson wanted 10 years. Judge Mike Lynch hewed closer to Robertson's request, noting the public trust Villarreal's former job required. Villarreal will begin his sentence next month.

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