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Waynesboro councilman takes plea deal in W.Va. bar fight case

Craig Newcomer could face up to one year in prison for battery; co-defendant opts to stand trial

February 28, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Waynesboro (Pa.) Borough Council member who was charged in a bar fight in Martinsburg that  left a man with brain damage in 2011 faces a possible one-year jail sentence under terms of a plea agreement reached in the case.

Craig L. Newcomer, 48, has agreed to enter a guilty plea a misdemeanor count of battery, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely told 23rd Judicial Circuit judge Christopher C. Wilkes on Thursday.

Newcomer may be able to enter the plea and then be sentenced on April 29 if Wilkes allows the defendant to plead guilty to the lesser offense. Wilkes ordered a pre-plea report to be prepared by the Judicial Circuit’s probation office in advance of the next hearing.

Newcomer’s trial was scheduled to start Tuesday. He was indicted in October 2011 on single felony counts of malicious assault and conspiracy.

The charges against Newcomer and co-defendant, Benjamin Jason Bean, stem from an altercation with then-45-year-old Ernest E. Cumbie at the Dirty Dawg Saloon along South Queen Street on February 13, 2011, according to court documents.

Bean’s trial was scheduled to begin Tuesday, but Games-Neely said Thursday afternoon that the trial was continued. No new trial date was scheduled, she said.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement in Newcomer’s case, Wilkes would determine whether Newcomer should serve a jail sentence, Games-Neely said.

Newcomer also would be subject to paying restitution.

If the judge should order alternative sentencing, Games-Neely said the state would recommend Newcomer be placed on five years of probation.

When asked the reason for the plea agreement, Games-Neely said “availability of witnesses” has been an issue in prosecuting the case.

Restitution is “a primary concern,” Games-Neely said.

After the fight, Cumbie was flown for treatment of scalp hematoma, multiple facial and skull fractures, frontal lobe contusions and traumatic brain injury, police said in court documents.

Bean, aka 4th Grade, declined to accept a plea offer to resolve his case, Games-Neely said after Thursday’s hearing.  She declined to specify the terms of the offer that was made until next week’s trial.

Defense attorney Thomas Stanley told Wilkes on Thursday that Bean wished to proceed to trial.

Newcomer, who served as borough council president before his arrest in May 2011, was identified by the name “Guido” in the Avenger Motorcycle Club, according to court documents.

Newcomer, a Third Ward councilman, first was elected in 2005. Council members are elected to four-year terms.

Newcomer’s attorney has said in court that his client hit someone who struck him first and maintained that Newcomer was acting in self-defense.

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