Lawton, OK -- It's a guilty verdict on 2 of the 3 counts against Sharon Newton, one of the so-called ghost employees of the Lawton Public School system. The jury reached its verdict around 4:00 Tuesday. Newton was found not guilty on one count of obtaining property by false pretenses. She was found guilty on another count, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit a felony. Newton was accused of signing invoices for herself and getting paid for security work she didn't do.
She is one of more than twenty people involved in the ghost employees scam--a scam that cost the system a half-million dollars.
It took an hour and a half for the jury to deliver its verdict on 3 separate counts. When the first verdict of not guilty was read, Newton and her family appeared to look surprised and somewhat relieved.
When the two counts of guilty were read, they still remained calm.
The jury recommended a total of 4 months in prison and $6,000 in fines.
Newton's family said they were relieved the penalty wasn't stiffer.
In closing arguments, the prosecution stated that Mark McFarland, who already has been convicted and who masterminded the scheme, testified that Newton willingly and knowingly accepted the money. The prosecution stated that she admitted to O.S.B.I. and F.B.I. agents that she called McFarland her "sugar daddy".
In rebuttal, Newton's attorney, Stephen Lile, told the jury Newton was innocently swept in by McFarland, and that she wasn't thinking straight.
But, prosecutor Dennis Gay said that it was wrong for Newton to take money from the school-and that the jury should come back with a guilty verdict.
In this case, they did-- in 2 of the 3 charges against her. "She admitted guilt and the jury saw that. So she must be held accountable," Gay said.