Hornsby Convicted On 6 Counts

Andre J. Hornsby was accused of using his office for personal gain.
Andre J. Hornsby was accused of using his office for personal gain. (Mark Gail - Twp)
By Henri E. Cauvin and Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, July 24, 2008

Andre J. Hornsby, the former Prince George's County public schools chief whose first corruption trial ended in a hung jury last year, was convicted yesterday on six of the 22 federal charges brought against him in his retrial.

The jury, which had been deliberating since July 15, acquitted Hornsby of two charges and deadlocked on the rest.

The conviction caps an extraordinary fall for Hornsby, who arrived in Upper Marlboro in 2003 with a reputation for making waves and with a mandate to turn around the county's troubled school system.

Now, three years after he resigned amid a federal investigation, Hornsby, 54, faces a substantial prison sentence. Each of the fraud counts on which he was convicted carries up to 20 years, and each of the tampering and obstruction counts carries a maximum of 10 years.

Hornsby, who was accused of steering school system contracts to his girlfriend and to a longtime business associate in exchange for kickbacks, was convicted of honest-services wire fraud, attempted evidence tampering and obstruction of justice. He was acquitted of one wire fraud count and one attempted witness tampering count.

In the hushed fourth-floor courtroom where the trial unfolded, Hornsby sat attentive and almost still as the jury foreman went down the verdict form. Next to Hornsby was his attorney, Robert C. Bonsib. Across the aisle were the prosecutors, Stuart A. Berman and Michael R. Pauzé, and one of the case agents from the FBI, John M. Sheridan.

Each of the first five counts, all wire fraud, came back as deadlocked. It was not until the sixth count, another wire fraud charge, that Hornsby heard the word he was dreading: guilty. Five more guilty verdicts followed, for additional counts of wire fraud, attempted evidence tampering and obstruction of justice.

All three wire fraud charges on which Hornsby was convicted involved e-mail communications from his ex-girlfriend Sienna Owens that were related to a deal between her company, LeapFrog SchoolHouse, and the school system.

U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte set Hornsby's sentencing for Oct. 20 and, at the request of prosecutors, ordered him to surrender his passport.

Leaving the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, Hornsby said nothing, deferring to Bonsib to speak for him. "We're obviously disappointed," Bonsib said. The jury struggled with many of the charges, he said, but not all of them. "Obviously the jury was persuaded by some of the evidence. We disagree."

After not securing any guilty verdicts in the first trial, the conviction of Hornsby was a welcome victory for the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland and for the FBI.

"The evidence in this case demonstrated that Andre Hornsby abused his power for private financial gain, tampered with witnesses and obstructed a federal investigation," U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. "Public officials must pursue the public interest and not line their own pockets at taxpayer expense."

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