Trial date set for alleged pay-to-play defendants.
On April 12, in the South Bay courthouse, officials and ex-officials from the South County school districts were arraigned. Despite urgings on the part of the district attorney's office for an earlier trial date, Judge Ana Espana set the trial for February 18, 2014. In making her decision, Espana referenced the voluminous amount of material to be considered.
The defendants from Southwestern College were: Raj Chopra (pictured), Nicholas Alioto, Yolanda Salcido, Jorge Dominguez, and John Wilson. From Sweetwater Union High School District the defendants were: Jesus Gandara, Greg Sandoval, James Cartmill, Pearl Quinones, Bertha Lopez and Arlie Ricasa. The only defendant from the San Ysidro school district was Manuel Paul; Yolanda Hernandez was arraigned at an earlier date.
A partial list of the various charges includes: perjury, conspiracy to commit a crime, wrongful influence, accepting a bribe, accepting gifts from a single source in excess of legal amount, filing a false instrument, and so on. All the defendants pleaded not guilty.
Attorneys for Jeffrey Flores, CEO of Seville Constructions Services, (the company initially engaged to manage Southwestern's Proposition R), sought a demurrer, that is challenged some of the charges filed against Flores. However, Espana overruled the demurrer and Flores was also arraigned.
Espana asked deputy district attorneys, Eric Ludwig III and Leon Schorr, to provide more detail for some charges.
An example of one charge against Flores that was released in the December indictments reads: "On or about January 9, 2010, Gary Allen Cabello [previously arraigned bond manager] and Jeffrey Steven Flores attend a dinner at Donovan's Steakhouse with Raj Chopra [former Southwestern superintendent], Henry Amigable [former Southwestern Prop R program manager], and Paul Bunton [a BCA architect hired for Prop R, who has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor], following John Merrill Wilson's retirement party. The cost of the dinner is over $1,160." Wilson was a former facilities director at Southwestern. Upon retirement Wilson began to work for Seville Construction Services.
Judge Espana also ruled on a motion to seal the records from the November/December 2012 grand jury investigation into the alleged South Bay corruption. In considering her action, Espana weighed "the tremendous public interest in the case and expenditure of public funds."
Espana discussed whether the release of the documents would taint potential jurors. She decided that the jury pool was sufficient that even with the release of transcripts, twelve honest jurors could be found.
Espana asked all of the attorneys involved to get together and agree upon inflammatory material that should be redacted from the transcripts and return to court on May 24.
More like this:
- Former South Bay schools officials have day in court — Dec. 7, 2013
- Judge to release grand jury transcripts in alleged corruption cases — May 25, 2013
- Two month delay for alleged South Bay corruption cases — Feb. 15, 2013
- Another delay for arraignments in South Bay corruption probe — Jan. 30, 2013
- New Southwestern Affidavits Released — March 30, 2012