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Noriega’s Wife Agrees To Plea Bargain On Theft Charges

June 15, 1992 GMT

MIAMI (AP) _ Attorneys for the wife of imprisoned Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega agreed today to a plea bargain that drops grand theft charges of stealing buttons from dresses at a Miami department store.

Felicidad Noriega, accused of stealing 27 buttons from 10 high-fashion outfits at a Burdines department store, did not appear at the hearing and was out of the country with prosecutors’ permission, said Assistant State Attorney Anne Lyons.

Under the agreement, the state will drop all charges and wipe her record clean, the usual procedure for non-violent, first crimes, Ms. Lyons said.

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If convicted of the theft charges, she could have received a five-year prison term. Instead, Mrs. Noriega will have to perform 100 hours of community service to be determined later by the county’s Pretrial Intervention Program.

She also must pay Burdines $1,320.94 in restitution for damage to the dresses and must sign an agreement releasing the store from liability for false arrest.

Ms. Lyons said such releases are common when the state drops charges as part of a plea bargain. The same plea was accepted by Mrs. Noriega’s friend, Rosa Busto.

The two women were arrested March 20 by Metro-Dade police after two store detectives stopped the women and accused them of taking the buttons from the Dadeland Mall store in suburban Miami.

Ms. Busto shown on surveillance tapes plucking buttons from expensive dresses in the designer shop at Burdines. The tapes showed Mrs. Noriega holding up clothes in what appeared to be an effort to hide Ms. Busto.

The plea agreement was formally accepted by Mrs. Noriega’s attorney, Leon Tozo, who refused to comment after the brief hearing. Tozo acted as an aide and translator for the ousted Panamanian leader during his seven-month federal trial. Noriega, convicted in April on drug and racketeering charges, faces up to 120 years in prison at sentencing July 10.