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Waynesboro official sentenced to community service, probation in connection with bar fight

April 29, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Waynesboro (Pa.) Borough Council member who was charged in a 2011 bar fight in Martinsburg that left a man with severe injuries was ordered to serve 200 hours of community service Monday and placed on probation for five years.

Craig L. Newcomer, 48, who also was ordered to pay $2,900 in restitution, was sentenced in Berkeley County Circuit Court moments after he entered an Alford plea to one misdemeanor count of battery.

A one-year jail sentence was suspended by 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Christopher C. Wilkes, who accepted a plea agreement that was presented to the court in February to resolve what had been a felony case.

Newcomer was indicted in October 2011 on single felony counts of malicious assault and conspiracy.

In an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges prosecutors have sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.

Before being sentenced, Newcomer told the judge that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people and that the case had been “tough” for him and hurt his integrity that he has been working to restore.

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 Feb. 13, 2011, according to court documents.

Bean is scheduled to appear in court for a status hearing in his case on May 13, according to court documents.

Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely in court Monday characterized the altercation as “a bar fight” and that the state had evidence that Newcomer threw a single punch at Cumbie, who then fell to the floor and hit his head, causing brain injury.

Games-Neely said she also had evidence that Newcomer questioned after the altercation had happened as to whether he had killed the man he punched.

Defense attorney Dan James told the court Monday that Cumbie, who didn’t appear at Monday’s hearing, still doesn’t know who hit him and suggested Newcomer actually threw a punch at another man, not the victim in the case.

In asking the court for probation, James said his client had no prior criminal record other than two speeding tickets and had been a model citizen since his arrest.

As part of the agreement, Games-Neely reiterated the state’s recommendation that Newcomer be placed on probation.

Games-Neely had previously said the availability of witnesses had been an issue in prosecuting the case and that restitution is the primary concern.

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 in February.

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 is not running for re-election in 2013.

Dressed in a dark suit and stripe tie Monday, Newcomer told the court he works at Candleheart Ministries (in Chambersburg, Pa.) as the rehabilitation program director. Prior to that he said he worked in the insurance industry.

He told the judge he runs the ministry for his parents who are in their 70s, he said. Candleheart says on its website that the organization began as a homeless shelter run by Maranatha Ministries and now is part of a structured federally funded homeless rehabilitation program.

After leaving the courtroom, Newcomer said the matter is “behind him and I’m moving forward.”

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