Two former Southwestern College trustees were sentenced Tuesday to probation, fines and community service after a harsh scolding from a prosecutor in response to a letter by one of the defendants.
Former Southwestern College trustee Yolanda Salcido, 55, submitted a nine-page letter to the court, describing what she said was a "harrowing experience" and seven-year political persecution by the District Attorney's office.
"I hope to soon put all of this behind me, and begin rebuilding my life, but never forgetting the very painful lesson this experience has taught me," Salcido stated in her letter.
The former Southwestern College Board president originally faced about a dozen felony and misdemeanor charges related to allegedly accepting gifts and expensive meals in exchange for her vote on multi-million dollar construction contracts and bond deals.
In her letter submitted to the court, Salcido said she never attended many of the meals listed on one of the contractor's expense reports-- a key piece of evidence in the prosecution.
"What has not been argued, and if so, it has not been heard, is the fact on how co-defendant and informant Henry Amigable, and other contractors, dishonestly and pervasively manipulated expense reports citing 'clients,' like myself, as having attended numerous dinners that we were never at, in order for him to be reimbursed from his respective companies, for his own extravagant expenditures," Salcido wrote in her letter.
In response to her statement, Prosecutor Tiffany Scott told the court that if Salcido has been investigated for seven years, it's because that's how long "they've been doing things wrong down there."
"The mere fact that Ms Salcido felt comfortable asking Mr. Henry Amigable to provide a suite for her -- for Miss Salcido's boyfriend -- shows that there was an inappropriate relationship between Ms Salcido, an elected board member, and Mr. Amigable, a contractor, who stood to benefit,"
The prosecutor added:
"Again, any allegation that this case is being pursued against her was politically charged is untrue," she told Judge Ana Espana in the South Bay division of San Diego Superior Court. "Again, this court is aware that this case wasn't brought by the DA's office. There were whistleblowers Southwestern Community College, that brought this to our attention, that filed complaints. There were people that reached out to the media. The media was covering this case. And, finally, in late 2012, the DA's office engaged in a criminal Grand Jury proceeding."
Espana indicated she wasn't pleased with the letter Salcido filed, calling her actions among the more "egregious" of the defendants who received misdemeanors.
Espana sentenced both Salcido and former trustee Jorge Dominguez with three-years probation, nearly $5,000 in fines each and community service. The felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor for Dominguez.
Both originally faced charges including conspiracy to commit a crime, wrongful influence, filng a false report and perjury.
Former San Ysidro Superintendent Manuel Paul was also set to be sentenced Tuesday, but his hearing was rescheduled for June 24.