Former Riverside County School Boards Association President William Clarence Newberry stood before a Superior Court judge on Thursday, Feb. 10, and made an appeal to avoid jail time.
Newberry, 62, wearing a brown suit, white shirt and brown-and-blue tie, pleaded guilty exactly three months ago to stealing thousands of dollars from the association and a high school booster club. His attorney, Donald Marks, in arguing Thursday for a sentence of probation, noted that Newberry had already suffered because of the effect of his conviction on his family and his ability to get a job.
Judge Sean P. Crandell was not swayed.
“I could say those things about pretty much every person who comes into this courtroom who is a felon,” Crandell said, motioning to the jury box in the Riverside Hall of Justice courtroom where other defendants had appeared that morning. “Earlier today we had this box, in the front row filled with people in orange jumpsuits who don’t have suits. They didn’t have jobs like yours, they weren’t elected officials. But they picked up felony convictions and they’re suffering the same hardships.”
The judge also rejected Marks’ argument that because of health problems, Newberry needed to be out of custody in order to eat a proper diet. Instead, Crandell ordered jail staff to address Newberry’s medical needs within 24 hours.
Newberry then briefly addressed the court: “I want to sincerely apologize,” he said.
Moments later, Crandell ordered that Newberry serve 180 days in jail, and at the conclusion of that term, 184 days in the sheriff’s work-release program, as well as three years probation. A deputy escorted Newberry to a side room, where he was put in chains.
Association Treasurer Tom Hunt, who discovered some of the thefts, was pleased with the sentence.
“Justice was served,” Hunt said in a phone interview. “What Bill did was atrocious. He took advantage of his position.”
In November 2018, Hunt told the district attorney’s office that he spotted suspicious activity in the association account that primarily holds dues paid by the 23 county school districts. Newberry, who was a member of the Corona-Norco Unified school board until being defeated in that November’s election, had been appointed by the district to the association, which assists districts with lobbying.
Investigators found that from 2013 to 2017, Newberry used an association debit card to make personal purchases and pay medical bills. Also, Newberry stole from the Climate Booster Club at Eleanor Roosevelt High in Eastvale to pay his bills.
Newberry ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of theft by a public official and grand theft and has made restitution: $15,114 to the association and $19,885 to the school district. Deputy District Attorney Tim Brown told Crandell that Newberry likely stole much more, but gaps in record-keeping made that difficult to prove.
Marks told Crandell that Newberry “made a terrible mistake” but that he “is a person who is a standout in the community” after receiving an award for 4,000 hours of volunteer service to Roosevelt High and raising money for the district. Crandell said he took that into account in rejecting the DA’s request for a year in jail. But he also said more than a sentence of probation was warranted.
“It was a very significant betrayal of trust,” the judge said.