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Sept. 11, 1998:
A reasonable doubt
Is victim being charged for former coworker's crime?

For much of the last year, Patricia Davis' life has been turned upside  down. A former nurse's aide, Davis is being prosecuted by the Dane County District Attorney's Office on felony charges for allegedly forging a $815 check. But there is, and always has been, considerable reason to believe 
that Davis is not only innocent of the crime but a victim herself.

 "This is an outrageous situation," fumes Dan Stein, Davis' attorney.   "It's almost like a child would be able to figure it out."

 Davis, who has never before been in trouble with the law, is accused of stealing a check from a patient at St. Marys Care Center, making it out to herself and cashing it using her own ID. It's a lot like the crimes that Deanise Hollingsworth, a nurse who formerly worked alongside Davis at St. Marys, is now serving a six-year prison term for repeatedly committing in Dane and Rock Counties. The difference is that Hollingsworth used stolen IDs when writing bogus checks.

 Wait a minute. Do you think maybe Hollingsworth, who worked the same shift as Davis and routinely had access to her unlocked purse, borrowed Davis' ID to cash this patient's stolen check? Hmmm.

 According to Stein, a report by Madison police Det. Dorothy Doheny says Davis also attempted to cash a check stolen from a St. Marys' patient named Mary Quilty. Among the people Hollingsworth was convicted in Rock County of stealing and forging checks from is Quilty. Coincidence?

 Ann Sayles, the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case, declined comment. But, in a hearing this May, Sayles repeatedly objected to Stein's questions about Hollingsworth, who she also prosecuted, calling them "irrelevant."

 Davis' mistake was that, early in the investigation, she cooperated with police by providing a handwriting sample. "I didn't have anything to hide," she says. Davis' sample (but none from Hollingsworth) was given to a Madison police handwriting expert, Det. Rick Miller, who concluded that Davis forged the check. For the charges to be dropped now  would be tantamount to the prosecutor--Sayles--admitting that a police officer--Miller--made a mistake.

 Stein is astounded by Sayles' intransigence. "They have to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt," he exclaims. "I don't know what they're thinking."

 A photo of Davis was also identified by the bank teller who cashed the check at a drive-through window. But the teller wasn't shown a photo of Hollingsworth, who resembles Davis, especially from the neck up.

 Davis' case, set for trial this week, was postponed. Stein says his own handwriting expert, "whose credentials are really far superior to those of the police expert," has already excluded Davis as the forger of the check.

 After reading about Hollingsworth's arrest, Davis urged the DA's office to investigate "the possibility that she is, in fact, the person responsible for what I have been accused of." Instead, Davis was this spring charged, arrested, tossed in jail overnight, and suspended from her job at St. Marys. This summer, the state revoked her nurse's aide license and the Madison police yanked her taxicab drivers permit, ending her second job as a van driver for Madison Metro.

 "This has been a nightmare for me," says Davis, a single mother. Stein agrees: "This whole thing is cruel. There's no other word for it."

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