Newell guilty of lesser charge

Published on Thu, Aug 1, 2002
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Newell guilty of lesser charge

During his July 24 appearance in Blaine municipal court, high school principal Dan Newell pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree-negligent driving, after accepting a plea bargain from the city.

“First degree negligent driving basically carries the same penalties as a first offense DUI (driving under the influence) but you don’t have a DUI on your record,” said city attorney Jon Sitkin. “We consider this solution if there are circumstances that appear to mitigate the case,” Sitkin said. “This way the city doesn’t bear the cost of going to trial and he gets the same penalty.”

When Newell was arrested Sunday, May 12 at 1 a.m after speeding through the intersection of Sweet and Odell roads, he failed to perform adequately on field sobriety tests and a breath analysis for blood alcohol content measured 0.12, above the 0.08 legal limit.

Sitkin said factors such as a blood alcohol level and field sobriety performance in the lowest bracket of violators, Newell’s cooperative attitude and the fact that no accident occurred all helped to mitigate the case.

“This is a first offense so it’s a proper resolution of the case,” said Blaine judge Michael Bobbink, sentencing Newell to a ninety days in jail but suspending all but one day of the sentence, which can be served in an alternative work program. “That suspension is like a hammer,” Sitkin said. “It’s only a suspension as long as he complies with other conditions of the sentence.” Those conditions include an alcohol evaluation and counseling, attending a victim’s impact panel and a total of $1,485 in fines.

Newell will also be on active probation for one year, during which he can not drink alcohol, and will need to report to the city probation department. His second year of probation those conditions would not apply. His lawyer Jill Bernstein argued unsuccessfully that the level of public scrutiny Newell was under made it appropriate to waive the requirement for active probation. “It isn’t just a case of probation watching Mr. Newell but the whole community,” she said. Bobbink maintained the requirement. “I normally require active probation for one year and I think it’s proper I stick to my guns,” he said.

Newell left by the back entrance of city hall and was not available for comment. He is expected to continue as principal of Blaine high school in the coming school year.

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