- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Former Prince George’s County schools chief Andre J. Hornsby yesterday pleaded not guilty to federal charges of corruption and obstruction of justice stemming from his tenure in Prince George’s County.

Mr. Hornsby, 52, was indicted Aug. 22 on seven counts of wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, evidence tampering, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

“I plead not guilty to all of the allegations,” Mr. Hornsby said yesterday during a 15-minute hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt before Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day.

The wire- and mail-fraud charges each carry a penalty of 20 years in prison. The other charges each carry a 10-year prison sentence.

Judge Day did not set a trial date.

The judge released Mr. Hornsby on his own recognizance on the condition that he have no contact with any current or former employees of LeapFrog Enterprises Inc., a company to which he is accused of giving a $1 million contract.

Mr. Hornsby’s attorney, Robert C. Bonsib, said that a prosecution request that Mr. Hornsby have no contact with current or former employees of the Prince George’s County school system was overly broad. Judge Day agreed with him but granted the request for a period of one week while the prosecution creates a no-contact list of school employees.

Outside the courthouse, Mr. Bonsib said he is confident his client will be acquitted.

“Today, Dr. Andre Hornsby told the court that he is not guilty of each of the charges against him,” Mr. Bonsib said. “We ask everyone to remember that he is presumed innocent and that an indictment is not evidence. We can now begin the process of preparing to present in court his defense before an impartial jury. We are confident that once that occurs he will be found not guilty.”

Mr. Bonsib said it would be “foolish” to discuss the defense strategy.

Mr. Hornsby, who earned $250,000 annually as schools chief, left the county in June 2005 with a $125,000 severance package.

The indictment says Mr. Hornsby, with help from a former employee, steered a contract to a company he owned that purported to aid school systems by writing applications to secure federal grants.

The contract was awarded in December 2003, five months after Mr. Hornsby had started his job in Prince George’s County. Over a two-year period, the school system paid his company more than $120,000.

Mr. Hornsby negotiated a kickback worth more than $100,000 to be paid in luxury items but received only $1,000, which he took in the form of a cash down payment during a meeting at a Bowie hotel, the indictment states.

Mr. Hornsby also ordered the June 2004 purchase of $1 million in educational software and other materials from LeapFrog SchoolHouse, a division of LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. of Emeryville, Calif. His live-in girlfriend, Sienna Rochelle Owens, was a sales representative for the company.

Miss Owens, who did not represent Maryland for the company, struck a deal to collect half of the commission from the sale and gave Mr. Hornsby $10,000 in cash, half of what she was paid, the indictment says.

Mr. Hornsby also is accused of lying to investigators, concealing information about the contracts and ordering subordinates to lie on his behalf and erase computer records containing e-mails about the transactions.

The Prince George’s County school system, which Mr. Hornsby ran from July 2003 to June 2005, has 135,000 students and an annual budget of more than $1 billion.

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