Pilfering principal pleads guilty to $10K student fund theft

The former principal of the Coppin Academy High School pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing more than $10,000 from a student activity fund and using the money to pay wedding and other expenses.

William L. Howard II, 37, entered his plea in Baltimore Circuit Court and received probation before judgment. He was sentenced to serve four years probation and 150 hours community service and to pay back the money, which he did on the spot.

Howard's case was pursued by the office of the state prosecutor, which investigates corruption and public misdeeds.

"The idea of stealing money from a student activity fund is just an egregious offense," State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said after the hearing.

His office had recommended a stiffer sentence: a two-year suspended prison term and 300 hours of community service.

At one point as he entered his plea, Howard told the court he needed to sit down and appeared to be sweating and used a scarf to mop his face. He declined to comment after the hearing, but his attorney said he was "happy to move beyond this."

Howard, who was principal at Coppin Academy between 2004 and 2008, stole the money after moving on to a new job as an administrator at Saint Mary's College of Maryland.

Between April 2011 and November 2011, Howard siphoned the money off in four installments, making electronic transfers from the student fund to his personal bank account and a joint-account with his fiancee they were using to pay for their wedding.

Howard made one of the transfers in May 2011 and he told investigators that he "may have bought himself a 'graduation gift'" that month, court documents say. It was not clear what kind of program he had graduated from.

The state prosecutor's office received a tip about the thefts in August 2012, but Howard told investigators that October there must have been a "mix up" and that the transactions had been made by mistake.



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