The attorney for Pearl Quinones argued for a light sentence Monday, saying his client has already been punished enough.
In the end, Judge Ana Espana sentenced the former Sweetwater Union High School District board member to three years of probation, 90 days parole and a nearly $8,000 fine for her role in a “pay to play” scandal in the South Bay.
Quinones and more than a dozen other school officials from Sweetwater, San Ysidro and Southwestern College, as well as contractors, were indicted in the bribery and corruption scandal.
Prosecutors say the school officials traded their votes on multi-million dollar construction contracts for gifts and other favors.
On March 18, Quinones pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit a crime and one misdemeanor related to filling out paperwork concerning gifts.
Per state law, she was supposed to immediately resign from the school board.
“Just for the record, I never resigned from the board,” Quinones said after Monday’s sentencing.
During the court appearance, Quinones begged the court for leniency.
“How sorry I am for making a mistake, but it was not intentional,” she said. “I made a mistake. I failed to educate myself.”
Her attorney Marc Carlos tried to persuade the judge to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor, citing her community service and clean criminal record.
However, the prosecutor asked the court for jail time or house arrest to send a message that the culture in Sweetwater needs to change.
Judge Espana upheld the felony conviction. She sentenced Quinones to three years of probation, 90 days parole monitored by the county, a $7,994 fine and public work service. She will be allowed to travel to Texas to care for her sick mother.
“What they said in there wasn’t true. I know if I had my day in court I would have won,” Quinones said, reacting to her sentence.
Quinones says she’s become a “scapegoat” in the case. Two other board members, President Jim Cartmill and Trustee Bertha Lopez, had their felony charges reduced to misdemeanors.
“I think it’s really unfair that everyone got away with misdemeanors, and I didn’t. Why?” she asked.
The felony will be reduced to a misdemeanor when she completes probation.