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Elementary School Principal Convicted on Crack Charge

January 27, 1990

NEW YORK (AP) _ An elementary school principal whose drug arrest touched off investigations into city school boards has been convicted of crack possession.

″It was not unexpected,″ said Matthew Barnwell as he left the court after the jury convicted him. He faces a year in jail and a $1,000 fine when Judge William Leibovitz sentences him on March 9.

″This was a sad duty,″ said Hope Hagler, 43, an attorney and teacher who was on the Manhattan Criminal Court jury that convicted Barnwell. ″We were all upset. He was a fine gentleman who gave in to a weakness.″

Civil liberties attorney William Kunstler, who represented Barnwell, said there are ″enormous grounds for appeal.″ He cited Leibovitz’s refusal to permit the jury to visit the site of the alleged crack purchase.

The judge allowed the visit in the last trial, which ended with a jury hung 4-2 for acquittal. Barnwell’s first trial ended in a mistrial before testimony began.

Barnwell, 56, was arrested on Nov. 11, 1988, minutes after he bought two $2-vials of crack from a New York street dealer.

His arrest sparked an investigation of local school boards when it was revealed that he had kept his job as principal of Public School 53 in the Bronx for 16 years despite a long record of absenteeism and tardiness.

Barnwell was fired two weeks ago by his local school board, which carried out the recommendation of a disciplinary panel that found Barnwell had betrayed his pupils and ″the enormity of his act is clear.″

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