Principalreceives deferred sentence ByJack Kintner

Published on Thu, Feb 2, 2006
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Principal receives deferred sentence
By Jack Kintner

Blaine high school principal Dan Newell received a deferred sentence in Whatcom County District Court early Wednesday morning after pleading guilty to one count of obstructing a law enforcement officer. The offense is a gross misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of up to 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Appearing before district court judge David Grant at 8:30 a.m., Newell entered an Alford plea of guilty, which essentially means that while he does not admit guilt he is pleading no contest to the charge.
Newell was originally given an additional charge of rendering criminal assistance but that was dropped. The plea relates to a criminal complaint dating back to January 2005 when Newell was alleged to have tipped off the then-school board member and mother of a high school studentsuspected of smuggling marijuana from Point Roberts to Blaine while traveling on a Blaine school bus.

Blaine superintendent of schools Dr. Mary Lynne Derrington said that while she’d just received the news via fax from Whatcom County assistant chief deputy prosecuting attorney Peter Dworkin, she said the school board will review the matter with their attorney for any new information that may not have been previously considered.

“Last year we did a very thorough review, took the time to investigate and hire outside legal counsel, and it did result in disciplinary action,” Derrington said, “so we need to look at questions like did we know everything and take appropriate action last April or is there anything new that needs to be reviewed, and we won’t know that until we get a chance to look at this latest material more thoroughly.”

Whatcom County prosecuting attorney David McEachran said in a press release, “It has always been the position of those involved in this investigation that had Mr. Newell not acted in the way he did, the investigation would have been completed earlier and fewer high school students would have been wrapped up into this illegal activity.” Newell was referring to the fact that after the tipped-off student stopped transporting marijuana, other students were brought into the criminal enterprise, at least one of whom was prosecuted for their involvement.

Newell was not available for comment. Under the terms of the Alford plea, Newell was sentenced to 240 hours community service, $1,000 in fines and an 18 month deferred sentence with the conditions that he must complete his community service by September 2006, pay the fine and be a law abiding citizen through to the end of the deferred sentence in July of 2007.

The press release also read that a deferred sentence allows the defendant to have the charge dismissed after the period of the deferred sentence if all conditions are complied with to the court’s satisfaction.