Disbarred attorney, Donna McNew, admits theft

A former attorney for the state Cabinet for Families and Children admitted in court Tuesday that she stole money from a client in her private practice. 

Donna McNew, 48, of Butler, pleaded guilty to two felony charges in Campbell Circuit Court. In return, a special prosecutor is recommending she serve a one-year suspended sentence for theft and forgery. 

That means she won’t have to go to prison unless she violates the terms of her probation over the next three years. 

Circuit Judge Julie Reinhardt Ward also may impose a fine of up to $10,000, under terms of the plea agreement reached with special prosecutor Stockton Wood. 

Ward will sentence McNew on May 1. 

“It’s rare that a non-violent, first-time offender will go to prison,” Wood said. 

“In this particular case, she’s made full restitution to her client and taken full responsibility for what she’s done. She’s been disbarred, so she won’t be able to practice law again.” 

The state Supreme Court suspended McNew’s license to practice law in 2004. She was permanently disbarred a few months later after the Kentucky Bar Association filed 24 counts against her, including seven counts of dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. 

McNew, who had practiced law in Covington and Butler, agreed to the disbarment. Indeed, she asked the Supreme Court to disbar her, admitting the allegations against her. 

Neither she nor her attorney, Harry Hellings, could be reached for comment Tuesday. 

In its disbarment order, the Supreme Court cited a number of instances in which McNew withheld money awarded to her clients. In one case, a signature on a check was forged. In another, it said, she stole some $120,000 from an estate she was administering, using the money to buy herself a new car. 

In the Campbell County case, McNew admitted she reached an $11,000 settlement with an insurance company. 

Wood said she settled the case without her client’s knowledge, forged the settlement documents, forged his signature on the check, and kept the money for herself. 

 

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