By Alan Sorensen
The woman who embezzled about $23,000 from Havre Beneath the Streets in 1996 is going to prison.
Connie Newton and her husband, Fred, each pleaded guilty in February 1997 to felony charges under a plea agreement. Connie Newton admitted stealing about $23,000 from the Havre tourist attraction while in its employ.
According to court documents, she appeared in 12th Judicial District Court in Havre with her lawyer, Carl White, on Aug. 24, and admitted stealing money from her employer in Oregon. On Oct. 14, Newton appeared again and was told that her suspended sentence was revoked and that she would be going to Montana State Womens Prison in Billings for 10 years.
District Court Judge John Warner wrote in his order revoking the suspended sentence that there was insufficient proof that Newton was reasonably able to pay restitution. She also had been charged with violating conditions of her release by failing to pay the restitution, a charge that she denied.
In April 1997, Newton was given a 10-year suspended prison sentence with several conditions that was amended. She was ordered to find employment so she could pay restitution and to remain law-abiding. She was told to remain in Hill or Blaine County.
Fred Newton admitted stealing about $1,100. He was given a 3-year deferred imposition of sentence and ordered to pay restitution plus 10 percent, a total of about $1,200.
The thefts occurred between January and October 1996. The couple absconded with their children when the thefts came to light. They were subsequently caught by authorities in northwestern Oregon a few weeks later.
Newton will receive credit for time elapsed on the sentence between March 19, 1997 and Sept. 3, 1998, a total of about 16 months. She committed a crime on Sept. 3, 1998, so received no credit for being law-abiding after that date.
Upon her release to parole, Newton will be subject to all conditions imposed in the original judgment.
In reaching his decision, Warner wrote:
The safety of the public require the security of a commitment to the department to assure a structured lifestyle that cannot be provided in the community. Defendant has shown that the safety of property requires defendant be closely watched, in prison if necessary to prevent further offenses and to convince defendant that theft will not be tolerated. Rehabilitation is more likely by programs available on a commitment to the department.
Warner noted that Newtons family is cared for by her husband and her family.