San Ysidro Superintendent Sentencing Delayed

A federal court judge approved a request to continue the Thursday sentencing of former San Ysidro Superintendent Manuel Paul to January 13.

Paul pleaded guilty in August to a misdemeanor charge of "deprivation of benefits for political contributions," meaning withholding work or another type of benefit unless a political contribution is made.

Federal court Judge William Gallo cited the necessity to give Paul due process, even though he indicated he was not pleased with the defense attorney waiting for the day of the sentencing to argue facts in a pre-sentencing report.

The defense attorney said he was unable to file a response to that document, which is used by the judge in handing down a sentence, because issues in the report would then become available to the public.

Paul declined to comment coming into federal court Thursday.

NBC7 Investigates first reported how, in 2010, Paul accepted $2,500 in parking-lot cash from a contractor seeking work with the district.

After our reporting, Paul agreed to resign from the board with a $200,000 severance package. He promised at the time that if he was ever convicted of any of the accusations, he would return the funds.

The San Ysidro School District is now suing Paul to seek return of those funds.

NBC7 Investigates also reported how Paul continued to run the district by email after leaving his post, about a suspicious burning of public documents at the district headquarters, and about his extensive home renovations.

On Thursday, defense attorney Dan Rodriguez said all those issues were outside the facts of this case.

"I think the right thing happened in court," said Rodriguez. "The court decided that they were going to consider some of the information that's been provided by the media to the probation department. We had hoped that the court would make the decision based on the facts of the case and not on media reports."

Other items he said were not relevant are the financial state of the district and civil lawsuits Paul may be involved in, but community activists say it is Paul's fault the district is now insolvent.

"The children didn't even have paper in their classrooms last year," said Mary Ann Saponara, who worked for the San Ysidro School District for about 40 years.

In letters to the court, some of those activists said it was the misuse of construction funds and over-priced construction projects, awarded in a culture of exchanging contracts for expensive gifts and favors, that caused the district's financial woes. Thursday, six community members submitted letters in support of Paul, but those documents are not yet available on the electronic court records website.

Carol Wallace, the president of the San Ysidro teacher's union, said the judge should not accept the plea deal.

"What it does, if they let him off, is it tells kids that 'I can cheat,' and 'I can extort,' and 'I can just be given a slap on the wrist,'" Wallace said.

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