Julia Phillips pleads guilty to breach of trust, gets probation
When asked how she would plead to a charge of breach of trust, Julia Phillips paused and turned to her attorney before answering.
"Guilty," she subsequently replied.
Phillips, who is awaiting trial in York County for the Feb. 4, 2010, murder of her longtime boyfriend, attorney Melvin Roberts, admitted Monday afternoon in Cherokee County Court of General Sessions that she pocketed rent money from Roberts' downtown Gaffney apartment building between September 2009 and January 2010.
As a result of a negotiated plea agreement between Phillips and the 7th Circuit Solicitor's Office, Circuit Court Judge Edward Miller sentenced Phillips to five years probation. The judge further ruled the probation can be terminated after three years if Phillips meets all conditions of probation and pays $2,000 in restitution to Roberts Realty.
Shielded by family members as she walked out of the courthouse, Phillips declined comment.
There's no immediate word on when she will face trial on the murder charge, but the lead prosecutor in the murder case, 13th Circuit Assistant Solicitor Kris Hodge, was one of several onlookers who came out for Phillips' plea in the breach of trust case.
Money has been offered as a possible motive in the murder case. Police and prosecutors previously said Roberts was in the process of ending his relationship with Phillips at the time he was killed and that she stood to lose everything he had promised her in his last will and testament.
Also attending the hearing was former York Police Chief Bill Mobley and Melvin Roberts' sons, Ronnie and David.
"We made some good progress today," David Roberts said after the hearing.
While expressing their thanks to all the law enforcement officers, detectives and prosecutors involved in the case, the two sons said they now have their sights set on the next stage of the case — the murder trial.
Police and prosecutors previously acknowledged their belief that someone else was involved in Roberts' murder but Phillips is the only one charged to date. Ronnie Roberts asked anyone with information about any other suspects to come forward.