Conviction tossed for cologne theft case; new trial ordered

CARSON CITY -- The felony conviction of a Las Vegas man sentenced to seven to 20 years in prison for stealing six bottles of cologne from a high-end store was tossed out Thursday.

The Nevada Supreme Court reversed the grand larceny conviction that Stuard Stephans received for stealing cologne from Abercrombie & Fitch -- reportedly valued at $477 -- because a security officer's recollection of the cologne's value was hearsay.

Because Stephans had several previous felony convictions, he was sentenced to a longer sentence as a habitual criminal.

Justices ordered the case to be retried.

At the time of the theft in September 2007, state law made stealing items valued at more than $250 a felony grand larceny charge. The 2011 Legislature increased that minimum to $650.

The conviction was based largely on the testimony of David Scott, the loss prevention officer for Abercrombie & Fitch's 12 stores. He had arrested Scott and a companion and confiscated the six bottles of Ezra Fitch men's cologne.

But at the time of Stephans' trial in District Court, Scott was no longer an Abercrombie & Fitch employee. He testified over the objections of Stephans' lawyer that he remembered the cologne's $79.50 price tags. Neither photos nor the actual bottles of cologne and their price tags were introduced as evidence.

"Scott testified that he knew the price by looking at the price tag 'the same as any customer would,' " the court said. "His testimony repeated the numbers shown on the tags as the price. This was hearsay, with no exception shown."

Without Scott's testimony, Stephans would not have been convicted of felony grand larceny, according to the decision.

Justices threw out the grand larceny conviction and ordered Stephans be retried.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@ or 775-687-3901.