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Jury deliberating in trial of woman accused of theft

FORT WORTH -- Jurors were deliberating Thursday afternoon in the trial of a 46-year-old Azle woman accused of swindling a mentally handicapped man out of his life savings.

Cynthia Sue Hardee is accused of one count of theft of property, stemming from allegations that she stole more than $20,000 but less than $100,000 from Johnny Bryant. She is also accused of second count of misapplication of fiduciary property, meaning she used Bryant’s money in a way that did not benefit him.

If convicted, she faces from probation to 10 years in prison.

During the week-long trial in state district Judge Mollee Westfall’s court, prosecutors Joe Shannon and Tonya Harlan portrayed Bryant, 58, as a mentally defective man who cannot read, write or manage his finances. But, they said, Bryant could work and, for more than three decades, he stocked groceries at several stores, netting more than than $150,000 in his profit-sharing account.

The prosecutors portrayed Hardee as a thief and a liar who befriended Bryant then took advantage of him, spending more than $75,000 of his retirement money on personal items, including dog grooming, hair cuts, eye exams, guitars and a television, among other things.

Hardee and her defense attorney, Danny Burns, meanwhile, have vehemently maintained her innocence, telling the jury Bryant willing gave her access to his money because they were going to go into business together and that she didn’t spend a penny without his approval.