Man found outside bank with weapons gets 5 years in prison

Turner Newman of San Luis Obispo pleaded no contest to three felony weapons charges

acornejo@thetribunenews.comMay 22, 2013 

Turner Newman, 20, of San Luis Obispo, was arrested Wednesday, March 13, 2013, on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon and a loaded firearm in his vehicle. Original story »

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Turner Newman was sentenced to five years in jail; he will serve his sentence in prison.

A San Luis Obispo man who was arrested in March after police found him at a local bank with loaded guns, ammunition, a machete and restraints was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison.

Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Duffy told defendant Turner Newman that she believed he had an undiagnosed mental illness. But, she added, his behavior on March 13 was both “frightening” and “disturbing.”

Newman, 20, pleaded no contest in April to three felony weapons-related charges.

An employee at the San Luis Obispo Heritage Oaks Bank near Los Osos Valley Road said Newman appeared dazed and confused when he pulled into the bank parking lot about 6 a.m. Newman’s mother, Melissa Newman, works as a teacher at the Pacific Beach continuation high school across the street from the bank.

His intentions that morning were unclear, police have said.

Deputy District Attorney Kelly Manderino said police discovered Turner Newman had performed Google searches on drugging, kidnapping and raping women. He also researched hiding corpses and the weapons used in the Newtown, Conn., school massacre.

Three women reported that he had made inappropriate advances toward them, Manderino said.

The county Probation Department’s presentencing report said Newman is at a medium or high risk to re-offend, writing, “one is left to assume that he is dangerous and had every intention to use the weapons.”

Ty Green, an attorney for the San Luis Coastal Unified School District, said the district was concerned about the possibility that Newman might have planned to enter the nearby school.

“We have to assume the worst,” he said in court.

But Newman’s attorney, Ilan Funke-Bilu, said the Probation Department’s conclusions were based on fear and assumption. Newman has a mental illness, he said. And he arrived at the bank that day with all of his possessions, including T-shirts and underwear.

“This is not a psychopath,” he said. “This is a sick, sick individual who needs help. He is not a criminal.”

Funke-Bilu said Newman had no prior criminal history and had received medals for his two-year service in the Army. 

Newman’s mother said her son’s involvement in the Army Special Forces might have contributed to his behavior, though she doesn’t think he intended to harm anyone.

“My son has never hurt anyone,” Melissa Newman said. “He has never hurt a soul.”

She and Funke-Bilu had hoped for probation time and treatment.

“He needs help,” the defendant’s mother said. “Jail will not help. Highly supervised treatment will help him.”

Just before his sentencing, Turner Newman admitted he was wrong.

“I learned a life-changing lesson,” he told Duffy. “I’m asking you to please help me have a chance at a normal life.”

After his prison term, Duffy said, Newman will remain under mandatory supervision for up to 730 days. She also ordered him to be evaluated for possible treatment of mental illness.

A little after 6 a.m. March 13, a bank employee called police to tell them that a suspicious man was parked outside. When the police officers arrived, Newman appeared dazed and confused, according to authorities. San Luis Obispo police later said Newman had been researching ways "to drug, render unconscious, maim, and/or kill people" on his home computer.

In April, Newman pleaded no contest to three felony weapons-related charges.

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