Two major players in the South Bay corruption case, former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara and former Sweetwater trustee Gregorio Sandoval, both plead guilty to a conspiracy felony and a misdemeanor in a Chula Vista courthouse April 4.
The charges could bring a maximum of three years in custody and a $10,000 fine; however, Judge Ana Espana indicated custody would likely not exceed one year.
An additional penalty for Gandara is that by pleading guilty he will no longer be eligible to have his legal defense fees paid by Sweetwater Union High School District.
As the April 28 trial date approaches, and the remaining defendants likely will enter pleas, the big question remains: Has justice been served?
Many concerned citizens have read and been swayed by the district attorney’s cumulative evidence. In what is called Statement of Facts, the district attorney’s office stated:
“Evidence gleaned by interviewing several dozen witnesses, executing two dozen search warrants, and reviewing approximately 60,000 pages of documents collected during the investigation revealed widespread corruption throughout the three school districts…”
Tonda Johnson, who attended the hearing today, said she has been so upset with what she perceived to be Judge Espana’s leniency that she wrote to the district attorney’s office and complained.
Johnson said, “Nobody seems to realize how much damage these people [the defendants] have done to South Bay residents. Aside from the money and time lost, this corruption has damaged the South Bay’s reputation. Good teachers are less likely to apply to the district — and people like me are less likely to ever vote for another bond measure.”
After Gandara and Sandoval entered their guilty pleas and Johnson heard the possible sentences, she was somewhat appeased, but she said warily, “You don’t know with this judge until it comes down to the sentencing.”
Former Sweetwater bond underwriter Gary Cabello, former San Ysidro trustee Yolanda Hernandez, and former Sweetwater trustee Arlie Ricasa are scheduled to appear in court April 7 for sentencing.