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Plea deals leave just one trial-bound defendant in South Bay corruption probe

The two school officials scheduled for felony jury trials beginning Monday in the South Bay-area schools corruption probe have each pleaded to a misdemeanor charge of receiving gifts above allowable limits.

Numerous additional charges against the two Sweetwater Union High School District board members, Bertha Lopez and James Cartmill, will be dropped in exchange for their admissions of guilt, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's office. Lopez and Cartmill have been scheduled for sentencing on June 9 and June 3, respectively.

Their plea deals leave just one trial-bound defendant, Jeffrey Flores, remaining in the probe that rounded up more than a dozen South Bay-area school officials, a construction contractor and a bond underwriter for allegedly being implicit in either giving or receiving gifts that could influence votes by school districts when construction contracts were awarded.

Flores, president of Seville Construction Services, was also scheduled to begin trial on Monday. But due to medical issues, is likely to have his proceedings continued to a later date, Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr said Friday. All named defendants outside of Flores have pleaded to lesser charges than what they initially faced.

Among the most serious crimes admitted to since the district attorney's probe began has been Pearl Quinones' admission to felony conspiracy, a charge Superior Court Judge Ana Espana will not be able to reduce to a misdemeanor as she has done for many other defendants in the case who have pleaded to felonies.

Quinones, who was as a result of her plea deal mandated to leave her position on the Sweetwater Union High School District board, is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday.

Espana will decide whether California Government Code section 91002, which prevents a "person convicted of a misdemeanor under this title" from being a candidate for any elective office or act as a lobbyist for a period of four years following conviction, applies. The code grants judges the discretion to decide at the convicted individual's sentencing whether the provision applies.

Schorr said the decision on Flores' trial continuance will likely be made Monday afternoon alongside Quinones' sentencing, which is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in Chula Vista.

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