First, if you have a civil action already filed this is going to be part of your evidence. The problem is that they demanded return of the company property, it did belong to them, BUT in order to prove theft they must prove you intended to permanently deprive them of the laptop and if you have been negotiating to return it, then you would argue there was no intent to permanently deprive and hence one of the elements of the theft is not present. The evidence of the civil litigation and the fact they owe you money is not as important as the fact your civil lawyer was negotiating with them over the return. The problem you will run into with this and getting a public defender is that if they learn you have a civil attorney, they will likely move to have the court to order you to pay for a criminal
defense attorney as well and you would have to prove you are not paying the civil attorney but he is doing it on a contingency basis.
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