Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Former Prince George’s County Public Schools executive Andre J. Hornsby was sentenced to six years in prison Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt for his conviction on charges related to steering school system contracts to close associates and accepting kickbacks from the deals.

“The evidence in this case demonstrated that Andre Hornsby abused his power for private financial gain, tampered with witnesses and obstructed a federal investigation,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said after the sentencing. “Public officials must pursue the public interest and not line their own pockets at taxpayer expense.”

Hornsby appeared relieved at the sentence, which was less than half of the 12 1/2 years prosecutors had sought.

“I think [Judge Peter J. Messitte] was fair in his assessment of the time he sentenced me to. It’s obvious from the case itself I did not benefit. That’s what happens when you make decisions with mistakes,” Hornsby said.

View video here: here.

Still, his attorney, Robert C. Bonsib, hinted he might appeal the sentence. Hornsby, 55, begins his prison time Jan. 2.

He was indicted in 2006. After an initial jury could not come to a consensus, U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus declared a mistrial last November.

A retrial started over the summer, and Hornsby was convicted July 23 on charges of wire fraud, witness and evidence tampering and obstruction of justice.

Along with time in prison, Judge Messitte ordered Hornsby to serve three years probation and pay $90,000 in fines and restitution.

Hornsby was hired as the school system’s chief executive officer and secretary and treasurer of the county’s Board of Education in June 2003.

He was accused of steering contracts - with the help of a former employee - to a company that helped school systems by writing applications to secure federal grants, then accepting kickbacks from the contracts.

An initial contract was awarded by the school system to a nonexistent company operated by Hornsby’s associate, Cynthia Joffrion, in December 2003, after five months on the job.

Over a two-year period, the school system paid the company more than $120,000.

Videotaped evidence showed Hornsby taking a $1,000 kickback from Miss Joffrion in a Bowie hotel room and agreeing to receive more than $100,000.

Hornsby’s ex-girlfriend, Sienna Owens, also testified that she received a $20,000 commission in 2004 from her employer, LeapFrog Enterprises Inc., for a roughly $1 million contract with the Prince George’s school system. She gave Hornsby $10,000 of the commission.

Prosecutors also said Hornsby ordered school system employees to destroy backup computer tapes that contained e-mails that could implicate him in the trial.

In recorded phone call, Hornsby told Miss Joffrion: “Give them what they want. You didn’t do anything. … Give them what they want ‘cause there’s nothing there.”

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