U.S. judge places limits on Hornsby

September 06, 2006|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,sun reporter

GREENBELT -- A federal judge barred former Prince George's County schools Superintendent Andre J. Hornsby yesterday from contacting any current or former employees of the school system where he is alleged to have engineered a financial scheme to enrich himself.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael R. Pauze asked Magistrate Judge Charles B. Day for the restriction. Hornsby's lawyer Robert C. Bonsib called the restriction overly broad, and government officials said later that they might tailor the order to affect a more limited number of employees. The ban also applies to employees at an educational company, LeapFrog SchoolHouse, where Hornsby's former girlfriend once worked.

Hornsby pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against him yesterday. In a light drizzle outside U.S. District Court here, Hornsby reiterated his claim of innocence and welcomed the chance to prove his case.

"We ask everyone to remember that he is presumed innocent," Bonsib said.

On Aug. 22, prosecutors unveiled a 16-count indictment against Hornsby, 52. They brought felony charges of mail and wire fraud, evidence-tampering, witness-tampering and obstruction of justice after investigators concluded the former schools chief illegally steered contracts to two companies - LeapFrog and E-Rate Manager, a company which prosecutors described as fictitious and headed by Hornsby's former employee.

Hornsby arranged to get thousands of dollars from the proceeds of lucrative contracts he helped push through for both companies, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said Hornsby also ordered school employees to destroy e-mail that might have implicated him.

His former girlfriend, Sienna Owens, split a $20,000 share of her LeapFrog sales commission with Hornsby. She was charged by criminal information only on a tax fraud charge that accuses her of failing to report the income. It is common for prosecutors to charge a person by criminal information if they expect the defendant to plead guilty.

No date in court has been set for Owens, prosecutors said yesterday.

Hornsby, who became head of the 135,000-student system in June 2003, resigned the $250,000-a-year position in May 2005, less than two weeks before the county school board released an audit that was highly critical of him.

If convicted, he could face a maximum of 20 years in prison for each of the mail and wire fraud counts, and 10 years for witness-tampering and obstruction of justice. No trial date has been set.

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

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