Former Chief Of Pr. George's Schools Gets 6-Year Term

Former Prince George's County schools chief Andre Hornsby arrives at the federal courthouse for sentencing today.
Former Prince George's County schools chief Andre Hornsby arrives at the federal courthouse for sentencing today. (Marvin Joseph - The Washington Post)
By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Former Prince George's County schools chief Andre J. Hornsby was sentenced yesterday to six years in federal prison for steering contracts to a girlfriend and a longtime business associate and then orchestrating what prosecutors called an "egregious" coverup.

The prison sentence marks the nadir for Hornsby, 55, who arrived in the county in 2003 with a reputation as a bold, confident administrator and a mandate to change the school system, which at the time had the second-lowest test scores in Maryland.

Just before U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte announced the sentence in a Greenbelt courtroom, Hornsby spoke for a little more than five minutes. At first, his voice quaked with emotion, but it became stronger as he continued.

"I'm totally embarrassed by what I've put myself into," Hornsby said. He did not admit guilt and said he never imagined that his actions would land him in court.

"I understand the seriousness of my actions. I understand mistakes were made," Hornsby said.

As schools chief, he said, he made thousands of decisions every day. "I was not making those decisions to benefit me," he said. "I was making those decisions to benefit the children of this county."

Messitte imposed the sentence after a hard-fought 3 1/2-hour hearing, during which a dozen educators, citing Hornsby's educational accomplishments and dedication to children, pleaded for leniency on his behalf.

They were countered by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Pauze, who spoke of the kickbacks taken by Hornsby, the evidence he destroyed and the witness he tried to influence.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 12 1/2 years, at the low end of advisory sentencing guidelines. But Messitte said he could not impose that sentence, in large part because the government had not provided examples of other people convicted of public corruption who have been given similarly harsh sentences.

"Six years is a long time for a man the age of Dr. Hornsby," Messitte said, adding that the sentence was tough enough to have a deterrent effect.

A year ago, a federal jury in Greenbelt deadlocked on the 16 corruption charges Hornsby originally faced. Prosecutors then brought a revised indictment, accusing Hornsby of six additional charges. On July 23, three years after he resigned as schools chief amid an FBI investigation, a jury convicted Hornsby on six of the 22 charges after deliberating for a week. It acquitted him of two charges and deadlocked on the rest.

During the first trial, he bantered easily with reporters during breaks, and even after he was convicted, he did not exhibit any signs of defeat.

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