Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jury selection to begin in Hornsby’s retrial

Former schools’ superintendent again faces charges related to alleged kickback scheme

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Jury selection in the retrial of Andre J. Hornsby, former Prince George’s County schools’ superintendent, is scheduled to begin Tuesday – about seven months after the first trial ended with jurors deadlocked on the fraud charges.

Hornsby, who oversaw the county school system from 2003 to 2005, is facing 16 federal charges — which include seven counts of wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, one count of evidence tampering, two counts of witness tampering and one count of obstruction of justice — for an alleged scheme to receive kickbacks through school system contracts.

Each fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and each obstruction and tampering charge carries up to 10 years.

Hornsby, 54, pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Jurors were unable to reach a unanimous decision in the first trial and a mistrial was declared Nov. 28.

Prosecutors allege Hornsby steered $1.3 million in school contracts to the computer software company LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. without disclosing that his live-in girlfriend, Sienna Owens, worked as a sales representative for the company.

Owens testified during the trial that she split a $20,000 commission from the contract with Hornsby but said she coordinated the deal without Hornsby’s knowledge.

Owens, 29, pleaded guilty in November to felony tax offense related to the LeapFrog deal.

Prosecutors also said during the trial that Hornsby operated a business, Quality Schools Consulting Inc. – a company that helped school systems apply for federal money – in violation of school policy. Hornsby said he did not engage in business with other schools while serving as superintendent.

Despite the attention the first trial received, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said he does not expect to have difficulties with jury selection because potential jurors who have heard about cases generally do not remember details.

‘‘In most cases, it really does not present a problem for us,” Rosenstein said.

Robert C. Bonsib, Hornsby’s attorney, said jurors will be carefully screened.

‘‘That’s something we’re going to have to be very careful about as we were the first time,” Bonsib said.

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