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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
September 10, 2013 Tuesday
METRO; Pg. B-01
|Ex-Little League head to serve time;
Ashland embezzler gets 12 months and scolding from judge
A woman who stole thousands of dollars from the Ashland Little League and from a fund she set up for an injured child is going to prison after downplaying her guilt in the case, incensing a judge who chided her for undermining the community's trust.
Lynn Newell, 40, appeared to be moments away from receiving a suspended sentence consistent with sentencing guidelines when she made comments to a Hanover County judge that seemed to question the criminal charges and to dismiss the significance of embezzling more than $30,000.
"This is what I get?" Newell complained, apparently referring to criminal charges filed against her despite efforts to repay the money, and what she portrayed in court as a selfless effort to assist the family of a boy hit by a car.
Newell, who lives on the outskirts of Ashland, entered a no contest plea and two guilty pleas to the charges.
Hanover Circuit Judge J. Overton Harris, who in the past has lectured defendants about a lack of contrition, berated Newell, saying her crimes undermined the public's willingness to support various organizations.
"You've offered nothing in mitigation except that you tried to pay back the money," said Harris, explaining why he was departing from guidelines and sentencing Newell to 12 months in prison on the felonies.
Harris sentenced Newell to 10 years in prison with all but six months suspended for stealing money from the fund she helped set up for the injured child; 10 years with all but six months suspended for check forgery; and 10 years, all suspended, for embezzling more than $23,000 from the Ashland Little League.
Newell, who became president of the decades-old Little League in December 2010, wrote to league board members that she had taken the funds and would repay them. But the matter went to Ashland police, who issued arrest warrants for Newell. She turned herself in to police April 10.
Newell was the first person to arrive at the scene after a car struck the child in April 2012, leaving him with severe head injuries, the child's mother testified Monday. Newell offered to set up a fund to help the family with expenses.
Newell even visited the boy in the hospital, mother Joy Goodman testified. But Newell also drained some $5,000 from the fund for her own use, a move that Goodman said left her other five children struggling to comprehend how a good Samaritan could do such a thing.
Steve Marks, Newell's lawyer, said his client was quick to make restitution, had been forthcoming regarding what happened, and did not deserve prison time. A few thousand dollars remains unpaid, but he said Newell was prepared to turn over that money as well.
Marks criticized a Little League official who said the number of players dropped significantly after Newell's arrest became public knowledge, going from 314 players in 2012 to 196 in 2013.
The drop, coupled with the loss of money, meant trophies weren't presented, uniforms weren't updated and safety equipment went lacking. But Marks said there was no direct evidence that the pilfered money was the direct cause of the diminished baseball program or a drop in attendance.
Newell apologized and said she was ready to make full restitution.
"I stayed with them in the hospital," she said of the family of the injured child. "I gave up my own life so I could help. ... I was there for them, and this is what I get in return?"
Harris, the judge, was clearly upset by her view of the case.
"It's a scam," he said of the two embezzlements, that "undermined the community's trust" in the honesty of organizations and the needs of families throughout the Hanover area.
And to Newell's consternation over her predicament -- "This is what I get in return?" -- Harris offered an answer after sentencing her.
"This is what you get," he said sternly.
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September 11, 2013