PRINCE GEORGE'S SCHOOLS PROBE

Hornsby's Ex-Girlfriend Admits to Tax Violation

Sienna Owens, shown outside the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, has been cooperating in the investigation of former schools chief Andre J. Hornsby.
Sienna Owens, shown outside the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, has been cooperating in the investigation of former schools chief Andre J. Hornsby. (By Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

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By Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 4, 2006

An ex-girlfriend of former Prince George's County schools chief Andre J. Hornsby pleaded guilty to a felony tax offense yesterday as federal authorities formally disclosed that she has been cooperating in the corruption case against the ousted administrator.

Sienna Owens, 28, said in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt that she gave Hornsby, 53, half of a $20,000 sales commission she received in 2004 after he arranged for the school system to buy nearly $1 million of educational software from LeapFrog SchoolHouse, which employed her as a sales representative responsible for Virginia.

Owens admitted that she had failed to disclose that income on her tax return. The offense is punishable by as much as three years in prison, but under the terms of the plea agreement, she is expected to receive a sentence of not more than six months.

Hornsby was forced from the post he had held for two years in June 2005 amid controversy surrounding his stewardship of the region's third-largest school system. He received a $125,000 severance payment for leaving before his contract expired.

In August 2006, a federal grand jury returned an indictment accusing Hornsby of taking part in two kickback schemes: one involving the LeapFrog contract and the second involving a consulting contract that he allegedly insisted be given to an associate's company.

To conceal kickbacks that would have exceeded $100,000, the indictment alleges, Hornsby suggested that the associate in the second arrangement buy him artwork or a yacht.

Hornsby has pleaded not guilty to 16 felony counts. He is not expected to go to trial until late next year.

In court yesterday, Owens said she now lives in Miami Beach, where she has been working as a self-employed consultant for two years. Judge Peter J. Messitte released her on the condition that she not travel abroad except to visit family in the Bahamas.

Her attorney, William C. Brennan, later said she and Hornsby met at a 2001 conference of the National Alliance of Black School Educators in Los Angeles. The relationship soon took a romantic turn, he said.

Owens was living in Boston at the time, he said, and Hornsby was living in Yonkers, N.Y. Brennan said Owens later moved to Yonkers, where she rented an apartment from Hornsby. They moved to Mitchellville together when Hornsby took the job in Prince George's.

"She's very glad this part of her life is over," Brennan said, "and she can now look forward to the future and her career."


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