Defendants in the Sweetwater Union High School District, Southwestern College and San Ysidro School District corruption case pleaded not guilty this morning in Dept. 5 of the Chula Vista courthouse.
The pleas came months after the San Diego County grand jury last December issued numerous indictments against school officials and contractors District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has accused of being involved in a pay-to-play culture that has corrupted the way business is done in South Bay schools.
Those who pleaded not guilty today are former Southwestern College administrator Nick Alioto; former Southwestern College Superintendant and President Raj Chopra; former Southwestern College governing board member Jorge Dominguez; former Southwestern College Board President Yolanda Salcido; director of business, operations and facilities planning John Wilson; Sweetwater Union High School District board member Jim Cartmill; Sweetwater Union High School District Board member Bertha Lopez; Sweetwater Union High School District Board member Pearl Quiñones; Sweetwater Union High School District board member Arlie Ricasa; former Sweetwater Union High School Superintendent Jesus Gandara; former Sweetwater Union High School District board member Greg Sandoval;
San Ysidro School District Superintendant Manuel Paul, and contractor Jeff Flores.
The trial is expected to begin Feb. 18 at 1:30 p.m. at the South County Superior Courthouse.
Superior Court Judge Ana Espana denied defense attorneys’ request to keep the transcripts from the grand jury investigation sealed.
The defense argued that making the transcripts public would prejudice potential jurors.
“What we’re interested in here is a fair trial to the defendents,” said Marc Carlos, defense attorney for Quinones “The media has indicated that the release of transcripts might prejudice a jury poll.”
But Espana said that while pretrial publicity can have an affect on the trial process, the prosecution and defense would most likely be able to find 12 suitable jurors.
Espana said that both sides would have an opportunity to seek redactions in the voluminous document. She set May 17 as the date to consider requests.
A readiness conference is scheduled for July 17.