PJ’s Café Case

PJ’s Café owner placed on seven years’ probation

Attorney Andrew Marcantel of The Attorneys For Freedom Law Firm represented the owner of PJ’s Café who was charged with fraudulent schemes and artifices, failure to file transaction privilege tax returns, and filing a false return.

In an interview with the probation officer, Norton said that prior to his death in 2002, her husband had always paid the taxes, and then she took over. She “offered no explanation as to why she stopped,” the report said.

Norton didn’t excuse her actions and told the officer she believes her actions brought shame to her family and business.

“I was wrong. I am extremely remorseful and I want to pay restitution,” Norton told the officer. “The court is fair and I will never ever put myself or my family in this place again.”

The probation officer wrote in his report he had a “difficult time thinking of her in the caliber of Bernie Madoff, Martha Stewart, or Lori Laughlin.”

Although Norton told the probation officer she was in “general good health,” her attorney, Andrew Marcantel of Chandler, cited her age and poor health as two of the reasons she wasn’t facing prison time under the terms of her plea agreement.

In a sentencing memorandum sent to the judge, Marcantel cited two past heart attacks, serious back issues, gastroparesis, coronary artery disease, past bouts with cancer, kidney issues, and macular degeneration as reasons why she shouldn’t be placed in prison. He also said sending Norton to prison would make her “unconscionably susceptible to contracting COVID-19.”

Marcantel described Norton as a “pillar” of the community who has been involved with numerous charities and community endeavors since she bought the café in 1979. She’s employed dozens of people and helped raise her grandchildren, he said. He submitted nearly two dozen letters written on her behalf. Among those who wrote letters were former and current Clifton Town Managers Luis Montoya and Mark Foote, town council member and Clifton Hotel owner Karen Frye, Greenlee County Tourism Council member Akos Kovach and owner of the Blue Door Sanctuary, Kimmy Henderson.

The defense attorney asked the judge to impose a four-year probation sentence on the great-grandmother, saying she was ready to make a $25,000 down payment on the $181,992 restitution owed and a $20,000 payment every six months thereafter. She makes no excuses for her actions and just wants to make things right, Marcantel said. There’s even a chance Norton could pay all of the restitution owed in less than four years, he said.

The judge said he thought the seven years’ probation was warranted.

Under the terms of Norton’s plea agreement, all of the other counts pending against her were dismissed.

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