Former Twin Rivers Unified School District Trustee Cortez Quinn was sentenced to eight months in county jail and five years of formal probation Monday for conspiring to obstruct justice in a paternity case, as well as for illegally taking gifts and loans from a school district employee.
Prosecutors said Quinn, 47, went to Comprehensive Medical Inc. for a paternity test in April 2013 and colluded with lab employee Andre Antoine Pearson to falsify the test.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurel White said she had considered a reduced sentence but found the “abuse of trust so outrageous” that she sentenced Quinn to an eight-month term. She also declined to place Quinn and Pearson on home detention or in a work program, saying she needed to convey to them that their actions were serious.
“The fraud you perpetuated ... would have denied benefits to a child,” White told Pearson. “I find the fraud perpetuated here as unconscionable.”
The sentencing, which ended in Quinn and Pearson being taken away in handcuffs, was the conclusion to more than a year of court hearings that began with Quinn’s arrest Nov. 5, 2013, in the parking lot of Foothill High School after a school board meeting.
Quinn, a former state legislative employee and once president of the Twin Rivers board, resigned his trustee post in October after pleading no contest to a felony.
“I am sorry for the actions that have brought me to this place,” Quinn told White on Monday, tearing up. “I didn’t think I’d be here, standing in front of you, during my lifetime. I still want to continue my work and will continue my work in the community, eventually as a servant leader, and I respectfully ask for your mercy during my sentencing.”
Pearson, the lab technician, was sentenced to six months in jail with three years of informal probation for a misdemeanor count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Someone on informal probation usually isn’t assigned a probation officer.
The case against Quinn was based on DNA collected from a crumpled paper towel that a criminal investigator fished out of a wastebasket in August 2013. The investigator followed Quinn into a bathroom during a school board meeting and retrieved the towel after Quinn washed his hands. The DNA from the towel did not match the sample from his paternity test.
Both Quinn and Pearson pleaded no contest in October. Under his plea agreement, Quinn cannot run for office or be a lobbyist for four years.
Lisa Wible Wright, the attorney for for Sherilene Chycoski, the woman suing Quinn for child support and a return of the money she lent him, was at the courthouse.
“I’m impressed with the judge’s comments,” Wright said. She added that White took into account the impact on the child during sentencing.
Quinn’s attorney, Vincent Maher said he believes Quinn received a harsher sentence because he is a public figure.
“It’s better than a whole year,” Maher said. “But I can’t help but think it (the jail sentence) is because of who he is. ... There are far worse people in the world then Cortez Quinn.”
Quinn continued to serve on the Twin Rivers Unified School board after his arrest despite a resolution from the full board asking him to step down. He refused to relinquish his seat until one day after he accepted his plea bargain. Under California law, Quinn would have been forced to vacate his office after his sentencing had he not resigned.
“We put this behind us about a month and a half ago,” trustee Michael Baker said. “We are looking for a quality person to represent the people of Area 5 and we are continually moving forward.”
The district has moved quickly to fill the Area 5 seat Quinn vacated, interviewing 13 candidates for the seat just hours after Monday’s sentencing.
The candidates were: Sonja Cameron, chief operations officer for Pacific Charter Institute; Michelle G. Deleon, a former educator; Erika P. Hermosillo, a manager for Teach for America; Thomas Sua Lee, owner of Jet Spray Car Wash and Detail; Margaret M. Rose, a retired teacher; Todd M. Tano, chief operating officer for CEO/iUnlimited Inc.; James Bryant Walker, operations officer for Sacramento County Department of Airports; Ronil A. Chand, Home Depot manager; Basim I. Elkarra, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations – Sacramento Valley; LaTonya J. McDaniel, a Sacramento Police Department supervisor; Garry Maurath, principal hydrogeologist at URS Corp.; Patricia S. Terry, an administrator with California Department of Education; and Mohammad Tariq, a Real Estate professional with New Hartford Enterprise LLC.
The school board is using a forced ranking system, which compares each candidate interviewed until each board member has ranked each one from 1 to 13, according to Twin Rivers Superintendent Steven Martinez. The board is using the scores to narrow the field to three or four finalists, he said.
Those finalists will be named today and then interviewed again at a special meeting Thursday. A new trustee is expected to be named that night and sworn into office Dec. 16. The trustee will serve North Natomas and Robla during the final two years of Quinn’s four-year term.
“I’m impressed with the number of candidates coming forward with an interest in being involved in what is happening in Twin Rivers,” said Board President Rebecca Sandoval. “... I look forward to us once again having a seven-member board and continuing the good work that we’ve been doing.”
Call The Bee’s Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert.
THE FALL OF CORTEZ QUINN
▪ 2007 — Cortez Quinn is elected to the Twin Rivers Unified school board.
▪ June 2011 — Twin Rivers Unified employee Sherilene Chycoski files a paternity suit against Quinn.
▪ July 2012 — Trustees name Quinn board president.
▪ August 2012 — Quinn stops working for Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, under "mutual agreement, " as the trustee was being investigated by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for disclosure violations.
▪ Feb. 13, 2013 — FPPC fines Quinn $14,000 for accepting loans and gifts from Chycoski without filing required financial disclosure forms.
▪ April 2, 2013 — Board holds hearing to discuss removing Quinn as board president.
▪ April 4, 2013 — Quinn goes to Comprehensive Medical Inc. for a paternity test. He allegedly colludes with lab employee Andre Antoine Pearson to falsify the test.
▪ April 9, 2013 — Board votes to keep Quinn as president.
▪ Aug. 20, 2013 — District Attorney's Office investigator obtains DNA sample from Quinn by retrieving a discarded paper towel the trustee used.
▪ Nov. 5, 2013 — Quinn arrested in parking lot of Foothill High School after a board meeting. He is accused of 13 felonies and five misdemeanors.
▪ Nov. 6, 2013 — Quinn is released on $25,000 bail.
▪ Nov. 7, 2013 — Quinn takes 90-day leave of absence from school board.
▪ Nov. 19, 2013 — Board passes a resolution asking Quinn to step down from his seat as a trustee.
▪ Jan. 7 — Quinn appears in court. No plea is entered.
▪ Feb. 4 — Quinn returns to the school board after a 90-day leave of absence.
▪ Oct. 15 — Quinn pleads no contest to one felony and two misdemeanors.
▪ Oct. 16 — Quinn resigns from his seat on the Twin Rivers Unified board.