Twin Rivers Unified Trustee Cortez Quinn pleaded no contest Wednesday to a felony count of conspiracy to obstruct justice in a paternity case and two misdemeanors for illegally taking gifts and loans from a school district employee.
The plea bargain in Sacramento Superior Court means Quinn could spend up to one year in county jail and serve five years of formal probation. Under state law, Quinn is suspended from his school board seat by virtue of pleading no contest to a felony.
Twin Rivers Unified, in a statement after the plea, referred to his seat as a “vacancy.”
Quinn, 47, faced up to 14 years’ imprisonment on 13 felony and five misdemeanor charges that stem from his relationship with a former Twin Rivers Unified employee. The District Attorney’s Office said he colluded with a laboratory technician at a test center to submit a false DNA sample to deny paternity after the school employee filed a legal action saying he was the father of her child.
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Quinn left the courtroom quickly after entering his plea Wednesday afternoon and did not comment. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 1.
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 him 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.
Quinn remained on the Twin Rivers Unified board despite calls from other trustees for him to resign after his arrest last year. He received $750 a month as a trustee.
California Government Code 1770.2 states that an elected official is suspended when pleading no contest to a felony. Another code section says the suspension turns into a vacancy once a judge sentences the defendant or implements the plea.
Judge Laurel White accepted Quinn’s plea Wednesday but said she will review it and still has the option to reject it.
“The board prior to this plea had passed a resolution asking for his resignation and now that he has entered a no-contest plea, the same thing as a guilty plea, he should resign,” said Twin Rivers Trustee Linda Fowler.
The school district released a statement Wednesday saying “there is no doubt that this decision allows the Board of Trustees and the district to close an unfortunate chapter. At this time, we are examining our legal options and obligations regarding the board vacancy and we will make a decision that is in the best interest of our students and our community.”
If Quinn had quit before the Aug. 8 filing deadline for candidates, the district would have been able to fill the vacancy in the Nov. 4 general election. Instead, the school board will have to decide whether to appoint someone to the seat or to call an expensive special election. The board has 60 days from the time the seat is vacated to order an election or make a provisional appointment, according to state law.
Andre Antoine Pearson, 37, also pleaded no contest Wednesday to conspiring to obstruct justice, although the charge against him was reduced to a misdemeanor. He could serve up to one year in jail and three years of informal probation. He also will be sentenced Dec. 1.
Quinn’s journey from respected school board member and district director for Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, to accused felon began when allegations surfaced that he accepted more than $54,000 in loans and gifts from then-school district employee Sherilene Chycoski without filing financial disclosure forms.
Quinn and Chycoski had a relationship while he was on the board and she worked at the district. The loans and gifts became more than a disclosure violation, since it is illegal for a school board member to receive more than $420 in gifts from a school district employee.
She gave him the money in cash transfers, money orders and purchases on her credit card, including auto shop charges to repair Quinn’s BMW, according to an affidavit. Two money orders worth $17,500 each came from the estate of her late husband.
The relationship soured, and Chycoski filed a paternity claim against Quinn before her son was born in December 2011. She also filed a civil suit against Quinn seeking repayment of $52,000 in loans. Both are pending.
Quinn went to Comprehensive Medical Inc. for a paternity test on April 4, 2013. Prosecutors say he worked with Pearson, the employee responsible for collecting DNA, to falsify the test by sending another person’s sample to an analysis lab.
The test result was used in court to fraudulently deny paternity, prosecutors said. Quinn claimed under penalty of perjury that there weren’t any irregularities in the paternity testing.
Investigators in the District Attorney’s Office grew suspicious after Chycoski’s attorney, Lisa Wimble Wright, said that Quinn declined her offer of something to drink during a deposition. He also declined to touch anything during the deposition process that could be used later for DNA analysis, according to a report from the District Attorney’s Office.
Trustees discussed removing Quinn from the board after his arrest in November, but discovered that state law prohibited that action without a conviction. Instead, the board passed a resolution calling for Quinn to step down. He refused, opting to take a 90-day leave of absence instead.
Quinn cannot run for office or be a lobbyist for four years under his plea.
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.