A babysitter who was sentenced last month to 10 years in prison for stealing her boss's mobile phone, which he claimed was worth 60,000 yuan ($9,500), has had her conviction overturned by the Zhengzhou Intermediate People's Court in Henan Province.
The court ordered a new trial for the babysitter, surnamed Zhang, citing a lack of evidence to warrant the Guancheng Hui District People's Court sentence of 10 years and a fine of 20,000 yuan.
The 48-year-old babysitter said she took her boss's mobile phone after he failed to pay back wages that had been owed for 44 days. Her employer, surnamed Su, accused Zhang of taking his Vertu phone and later burying it in the residential community where the family lived in December last year, according to the local news portal dahe.cn.
Su called the police and the missing mobile phone was retrieved after surveillance camera video revealed where Zhang had buried it.
Su produced a receipt showing the mobile phone was worth 60,000 yuan.
Zhang testified that she only tried to pressure her boss into paying her wages and had not intended to make a personal gain from such an expensive mobile phone.
"I assumed it was worth some 2,000 yuan at the most," she said.
Liu Xuefeng from the prosecutor's office in Guancheng Hui district said two wrongs don't make a right and stealing a mobile phone isn't the same as owning someone back wages. "The value of Zhang's theft was enough to sentence her to more than 10 years," Liu said.
The intermediate court considered a number of facts in overturning Zhang's conviction. It was not convinced that Su's mobile phone was worth 60,000 yuan or that Zhang knew its value. The lower court should have also considered that Zhang had turned herself in.
"This kind of case would normally see a light sentence," said Qu Xinjiu, a professor with the China University of Political Science and Law.
"Generally, a sentence of 10 years is for thefts over 50,000 yuan," said Qu.
"The key to this case is assessing the real value of the mobile phone not whether the babysitter knew its value," Qu added.
Sun Zhiping, a judge from the Higher People's Court of Henan Province, told the Global Times that his court is following the case closely.