Blainehigh school principal suspended

Published on Thu, Jan 27, 2005 by eg Olson

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Blaine high school principal suspended

By Meg Olson

Blaine high school principal Dan Newell will face charges on Friday of obstructing a law enforcement officer and rendering criminal assistance in the second degree, accused of being the catalyst that got one 16-year-old girl arrested on the Point Roberts school bus with a bag of pot, rather than another.

In a criminal complaint filed January 24 in district court, Newell is alleged to have tipped off the mother of a 16-year-old Blaine high school student and Point Roberts resident who was under investigation for smuggling marijuana on the school bus.

The girl’s mother, Deb Hart, was a member of the school board at the time and when police notified school officials of their investigation in late 2003, Newell called her and told to “make sure [your daughter] doesn’t get on the bus tomorrow,” according to the complaint. After the girl heeded the warning, court documents allege the girl and her boyfriend James Jarosz began looking for other couriers to transport marijuana on the school bus.

In February, a 16-year-old Point Roberts teenager was arrested as the school bus crossed the border in Blaine, with eight pounds of marijuana in her school bag.

Police started investigating marijuana smuggling on the school bus in October 2003 and following their February arrest they charged Jarosz in June with “several felonies in connection with having students transport marijuana for him across an international border,” in December 2003 and January 2004 according to court documents. He is currently in Whatcom County jail on $50,000 bail awaiting trial in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Investigators reported when Jarosz was charged in June, their investigation into Hart’s daughter “did not develop” because her parents had moved her out of the state.

According to court documents, investigators learned in October 2004 that Hart had received a telephone call December 2, 2003 from an unidentified male who told her to call a pay phone because “someone at the school needs to talk to you.” When she did, a man answered the telephone and told her that her daughter was “on videotape with a large duffel bag” and was suspected of smuggling.

When asked to identify himself the caller said “I don’t want to say,” Hart told investigators. “I don’t want this to affect my job,” and asked that she promise not to tell. “This conversation never took place because my career would be in jeopardy,” she reported him saying.

When asked if he was Newell, the caller did not answer. Both Hart and her husband Wayne Knowles who listened to the call told investigators they recognized Newell’s voice. The number of the payphone was determined to be at Nooksack Valley high school one mile from Newell’s home at the time, court documents report.
Following the phone call, Hart said she spoke to her daughter and 18-year-old Jarosz, who lived together, and told her daughter she was a suspect and should not ride the bus the next day.

In a later interview with law enforcement, Hart’s daughter said she had been smuggling 25 to 30 pounds almost daily on the school bus, earning $1,000 to $2,000 per delivery. After the phone call, not wanting to get caught, she and Jarosz recruited other students to carry the drugs.

Newell admitted to making the call when law enforcement interviewed him in December 2004. “She had just gotten on the school board and I didn’t think it would be a good thing for her,” he is alleged to have told them, explaining why he called Hart. “It was a school board member’s kid, not that every child is not valuable.” Hart was elected to the Blaine school board in November 2003 and was sworn in December 15. She served until her resignation in June 2004.
The two gross misdemeanors Newell is facing carry a maximum penalty of a year in jail or a $5,000 fine, though county chief criminal deputy said “it usually isn’t that much.”

Newell was not at school on January 25 and Blaine school district superintendent Mary Lynne Derrington issued a short statement saying he had been placed on administrative leave.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Mac Setter said the investigation into the drugs on the bus was ongoing. So far four juveniles and three adults have been charged, and Setter said some of those involved had not been charged because of insufficient evidence or because they cooperated with law enforcement. “Most people have been very cooperative,” he said. While Setter would not say if any more arrests were anticipated, he did say “we have other individuals in Canada who are staying there.”

Hart will not be charged, despite passing along the same warning as did Newell, because she “wasn’t entrusted with information by law enforcement.” Her daughter will also not face charges. “Law enforcement has asked us not to charge her based on the level of cooperation she has provided from the onset,” Setter said.