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Alleged South Bay Schools Corruption Arraignments Delayed – Again

More than a dozen current and former school officials from three South Bay school districts face charges including bribery. The fourth attempt to hold arraignment hearings will take place April 12.

A judge was assigned Friday to oversee the case involving more than a dozen current and former South County school officials accused of accepting gifts in exchange for votes on construction contracts, resulting in postponement of arraignments for the defendants.

South Bay Criminal Presiding Judge Stephanie Sontag assigned the case to Judge Ana Espana, who rescheduled the arraignments for April 12.

The original arraignments were scheduled to take place Jan. 7 but were delayed for the third time Friday.

Where to prosecute the defendants has been a point of contention for the District Attorney's Office. It originally filed the cases in San Diego because the alleged crimes occurred in various locations, not just South County. In January, San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy Walsh transferred the case from San Diego to Chula Vista.

The District Attorney's Office filed a request to move the cases back to San Diego, arguing it had already been assigned to a judge who was familiar with the matter. The office also argued unsuccessfully that most of the courtrooms at the Chula Vista courthouse were too small to handle large numbers of defendants, lawyers, reporters and members of the public.

Last week, Walsh declined the request, explaining that he transferred the case because he believed that South County was the "most appropriate" venue since the defendants are from that area.

Among the 15 defendants charged in two indictments are current and former officials from the Sweetwater Union High School, San Ysidro School District and the Southwestern Community College District.

Former Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendent Jesus Gandara, former trustee Greg Sandoval and current board members Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quinones were charged a year ago in connection with the alleged "pay for play" scheme. Each faces between four and seven years in state prison if convicted.

Also charged in indictments handed down in December are current Sweetwater board members James Cartmill and Bertha Lopez, as well as San Ysidro School District Superintendent Manuel Paul and former Southwestern College Superintendent and President Raj Chopra.

Cartmill, Lopez, Paul and Chopra also are charged with bribery, perjury and other counts.

For years, the public officials allegedly regularly accepted what amounted to bribes–trips, fancy dinners–in exchange for their votes on multimillion- dollar construction projects, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis alleged.

In March of last year, construction company executive Henry Amigable admitted a misdemeanor charge that he provided gifts, meals and tickets for entertainment events to district officials to influence the school board's decisions on construction contracts.

 

– City News Service

Ed Sorrels February 15, 2013 at 10:21 PM
They elected them in South Bay, They committed the crimes in South Bay aginst those that had elected them, They need to be tried in South Bay where they live, meet with, shop with, Interact with those that they committed the crimes aginst !
Libi Uremovic February 15, 2013 at 11:41 PM
they're wasting their time and the taxpayers' money....they will never find a jury in the state of cali that will be sympathetic to their crimes.... plead guilty - pay back the money - and serve your time - get some dignity
Mark February 16, 2013 at 07:11 AM
Reads like the district attorney wants the case moved not the defendants. Wonder if the District attorneys on the take...
Sissy Jacks February 17, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Doubt if DA is on the take, she was the one who decided to prosecute them; but I am wondering if Filner is part of the mess. Libi, too bad they have little understanding of the word "integrity" - for if they did they they would have taken the measures you suggest. While we sit and wait, THEY SIT AND VOTE - SPENDING MILLIONS OF OUR TAX DOLLARS, and SUPERINTENDENT BRAND DOES WHAT HE DOES BEST, WHEELS AND DEALS.

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