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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Rachel Dolezal makes first public court appearance on charges of felony welfare fraud

UPDATED: Wed., June 20, 2018

Rachel Dolezal made her first public appearance in court Wednesday morning on accusations of stealing from the Washington welfare system.

It was the first time she’d seen a judge since being charged with two counts of felony fraud in late May.

Dolezal, who legally changed her name to Nkechi Diallo two years ago, pleaded not guilty again to both counts. Within minutes of entering the court room she was whisked away by her defense attorney, Bevan Maxey, to avoid television cameras.

Dolezal, 40, was thrust into the national spotlight in 2015, when it was revealed she was a white woman who for years passed herself off as black while serving as president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. The controversy has spawned many news articles, a book deal and a recent Netflix documentary “The Rachel Divide.”

As part of her release conditions, and because she was already out of custody, Spokane County Superior Court Judge James Triplet required Dolezal to check in July 2 to the Spokane County Jail, where she will be booked and photographed but not sent to a cell.

The state accuses Dolezal of illegally receiving about $9,000 in food assistance and $100 in child care assistance in 2017 all while failing to report her actual income, according to the Washington Department of Social and Health Services. If convicted, she would face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and could be ordered to repay the money.

Investigators say she made nearly $84,000 between August 2015 and September 2017, but despite this, she only reported a monthly income of $300 a month.

Most of that money, investigators say, came from her memoir, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World,” of which she received an advance payment of $10,000 and $20,000 plus sales.

Judge Triplet also ruled that Dolezal not leave the country and remain in contact with Maxey. Her trial is set for Sept. 10, but it’s likely to be moved back as her defense works on the case.

Netflix released a statement to multiple media outlets in March noting that Dolezal was not paid for the documentary project.

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