Zacot talks about court case and why he chose to make plea
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - “The money was always there; I always had it in my possession.”
In an exclusive interview with the Mineral Daily News Tribune this week, former Keyser City Council member William Zacot talked about the events that led up to his being charged with embezzling funds from the Keyser Youth Baseball League and why he chose to enter into a plea agreement rather than move forward with a jury trial.
Mineral County prosecuting attorney Cody Pancake has confirmed that the money in question - $10,974.76 - was turned in to the court system early on in the case, and is currently being held in an escrow account in the circuit clerk’s office.
“There is some question about another $3,000-$4,000, and we’ve got to set up a meeting with his attorney to discuss that,” Pancake said. “The court basically left it up to us to finalize the amount.”
According to Zacot, the issue began when a division occurred in the youth baseball league. Zacot had been coaching but found himself filling in for the president of the KYBL who had to be away for some family issues.
“I had no intentions of being in charge of the league; I just wanted to coach. I wanted to share my knowledge and love of the game with the little ones,” Zacot said.
“The division took place in late 2017, and in 2018, the league actually split. There was a lot of conflict,” he said. “The president, it was Stan Szafran at the time … told me to get control of the money.”
Szafran, reached by phone, confirmed that he had been president of the league at the time and told Zacot he had some family issues that would keep him away.
“Both our names were on the account, but mine was taken off,” he told the News Tribune.
“I don’t think Zacot had anyone else’s name put on the account.”
Zacot takes the blame for how it was handled.
“Ultimately, I’m the one that withdrew the funds. It was me. I’m not going to place the blame on anyone else regardless of what anyone else has said.
“I did that and I will admit it to my grave,” Zacot said.
“But the money was always there. I always had it in my possession. All it would have taken was a phone call or a knock on the door and ‘Hey where’s the money?’ I could have shown them.
“But it ended up getting a lot deeper than just a question,” he said.
Zacot maintains that everything he had spent out of the money “was used for the league,” but admits where he went wrong was to use a credit card for reimbursement.
“Where I screwed up, yeah, I swiped a card and marked it off for reimbursement. Was it the wrong thing to do? Probably. Yes,” he said.
“But I admitted what I did and I’ll continue to admit it.
“Stan said, ‘If anyone here can do this (take care of the money) and not let the kids down, it’s you.’ “ he recalled.
“But I turned around and let them down,” he said.
Szafran, who cooperated with the investigation, said he is unaware of anything that happened with the money after his name was taken off the account.
As for taking a plea agreement instead of going to trial, Zacot said he weighed the possible outcome of both scenarios and decided a trial was too risky.
“I had already heard the rumors,” he said, referring to comments made against him on social media and through other avenues.
“At first I thought, why take a plea agreement? The money has always been there. Then I heard the word on the street and I wasn’t willing to jeopardize the rest of my life for something like this,” he said.
Now, with two years of probation ahead of him, he has resigned his seat on the council and as a result, lost his position as parks and recreation commissioner.
Faith Productions, the non-profit he had co-founded separately from the city but which worked in tandem with the city’s parks and recreation department, has been dissolved.
He worries about the children of the community and who will step up to work with them.
“When I ran, I wanted to find a way to give to the community, especially the kids,” he said. “What concerns me now is, what now for them?
“Intentional or not, I let them down. I let the community down, I let my family down and I let my friends down.
“I’m sorry for anyone who’s lost faith or trust in me,” he said.
“Did I have bad judgement in the way I handled this? Yes, I did. But they were my actions and my actions have pretty much cost me everything.”
Zacot paused a moment thinking, then said, “But what reason would I have to steal from a kid?
“That’s what bothers me the most.”