Ex-Sweetwater board member Pearl Quinones sentenced in bribery case

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - A former Sweetwater Union High School District board member who pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in a public corruption case was sentenced Monday to 90 days in custody, which can be done in a house-arrest program if she's accepted.

Pearl Quinones, 61, gave up her school board position as a result of the felony conviction and also admitted a misdemeanor count of accepting gifts above the state limit.

Quinones admitted in court she made a mistake, saying she should have educated herself on the rules pertaining to accepting gifts.

"I know what I did and I know it was wrong," Quinones said.

South Bay Judge Ana Espana denied a motion by Quinones to reduce the felony conviction to a misdemeanor, said Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr.

Quinones was also ordered to pay a $7,994 fine and perform 10 days of public work service.

After her sentencing, Quinones said, "I know that what they said in there wasn't true. I know that if I would have had my day in court we would have won."

Quinones said that everything the prosecution said about her was "ridiculously exaggerated."

Quinones said she was the scapegoat, adding, "I'm the only one that they sort of picked on. I think it's really unfair that everybody else got away with misdemeanors and I didn't."

Quinones was one of 15 people indicted in 2012 in a probe into a "pay for play" culture between contractors and officials from three school districts.

When the case was filed, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis alleged that for years, public officials regularly accepted what amounted to bribes -- trips, dinners and tickets -- in exchange for their votes on multimillion-dollar construction projects.

Several other defendants have entered guilty pleas in the case. The most recent were last week, when board President Jim Cartmill and trustee Bertha Lopez pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor accepting gifts charge. They're set for sentencing June 3 and June 9, respectively.

Among others to plead guilty in the case were former trustees Arlie Ricasa and Greg Sandoval, ex-Superintendent Jesus Gandara and a construction company executive, Henry Amigable, who admitted to a misdemeanor for providing gifts to school board members to influence their votes.

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