No one can estimate the cost to taxpayers for the South Bay scandal that involved pay-to-play charges and millions in Southwestern College and Sweetwater Union High School District bond money. But the costs continue to add up for defendants.
Sweetwater trustee Pearl Quinones plead guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor March 18. In a phone conversation March 19 Quinones said, “I made the decision to plea because of my family. The pressure and the expense are too much. Even at the last minute though, when I was standing in front of Judge [Ana] Espana, I still wanted to keep fighting.”
Quinones noted her felony charge was just over $500. Her plea stated: “In 2007, I was an elected School Board member of the Sweetwater Union High School District. I accepted gifts from Henry Amigable in 2007 with a total value in excess of $500 and I did not report them. The maximum amount of gifts one may receive from one source per year as of 2007 was three hundred and ninety dollars. Henry Amigable provided these gifts with the intent to influence my vote on business awarded to Gilbane, his employer.”
There is some confusion about whether Quinones will step down from the board immediately. It was not part of her plea agreement. According to deputy district attorney Leon Schorr, trustee Arlie Ricasa had indicated prior to accepting a plea deal that she would step down. Quinones made no such agreement.
Clouding the issue of Quinones’s trustee seat, Judge Espana has recently boiled some corruption felony charges down to misdemeanors — it’s anyone’s guess what will happen April 28 when Quinones is sentenced. (Southwestern College’s vice-president, Nicholas Alioto, for example, plead guilty to a felony, which Espana later reduced to a misdemeanor.)
Sweetwater’s attorney Dan Shinoff was contacted by email regarding Quinones’s trustee seat, however he did not respond by the time this story was filed.
Prohibitive legal costs compelled former Sweetwater trustee Arlie Ricasa and trustee Jim Cartmill to start defense funds.
Ricasa pleaded guilty in December to a misdemeanor. Her largest defense donors were family members. New Image Computers also donated $5000 to her defense.
Cartmill has been charged with wrongful influence, filing a false instrument and accepting a bribe among other things. Through his business Let’s Talk Health, he loaned his defense fund $20,000. Annie Malcolm, wife to David Malcolm, a former port commissioner who was obliged to step down due to conflict of interest charges, donated $5,000 to Cartmill’s defense.
Justice has been meted out for South Bay corruption defendant Gary Cabello in a different way. Cabello worked for several bond underwriting firms and was involved in transactions for both Southwestern College and Sweetwater Union High School District.
On October 28, 2013 he plead guilty to two felony counts.
In addition, on March 18 the Securities and Exchange Commission barred Cabello from association with any broker, dealer, investment adviser and barred him from participating in an penny stock offerings.
No doubt as the April 28 trial date approaches — the remaining defendants will be weighing the price of a plea bargain against the price of a trial.