Next phase delayed
Sentencing pushed back for those guilty in corruption case
Five men in the past year have pleaded guilty to federal corruption leading to the downfall of Dallas County Schools — and all five will spend another Christmas at home.
Former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, for instance, faces up to seven years behind bars for accepting $450,000 in bribes and kickbacks from two figures in the scandal that brought down the agency once tasked with busing kids to school and helping them cross streets. Caraway pleaded guilty in August to two counts of federal corruption charges — tax evasion and wire fraud — and was originally scheduled to be sentenced next week.
His new date is now four months away.
In fact, all five of the men who have pleaded guilty have had their sentencing dates pushed into 2019 — even Slater Swartwood Sr., who copped to a single count of conspiracy to commit money laundering one year ago.
Caraway’s sentencing date has been moved repeatedly since October alone — from Dec. 14 to Dec. 20 to Feb. 9. Just last week, Caraway’s defense attorney Michael Payma
filed a motion to push it back even further — into April or May, according to court documents. District Judge Barbara Lynn decided on April 5.
Caraway’s lawyer offered two reasons for the delay: The prosecutor in charge has a trial set to start in January “that in all likelihood will create a conflict with the current sentencing date and other related deadlines.”
Payma then referred to the pre-sentence investigation report, which will essentially tell Caraway’s life story — everything from his family and work history to his physical and mental health — and help the judge set the sentence. According to the U.S. District Court, the report also deals with the defendant’s “willingness to accept responsibility for his or her offense(s).”
Those reports are kept confidential.
According to Payma’s filing, the “pre-sentence investigation report in this matter is rather complex,” and Caraway will need “additional time to properly evaluate the report and file his objections, if any.”
Payma wouldn’t comment on the delay, other than to say, “I assure you that there were valid reasons for the request.”
Locke Lord attorney Paul Coggins, who for eight years served as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said sentencing delays over investigating reports aren’t uncommon. If nothing else, he said, they “give the government and defense more time to agree on things rather than fight over material that goes into the presentencing investigative report.”
But, he said delays could be for another reason: The defendants could be offering prosecutors information about a complex, widespread case that has so far netted guilty pleas from five people. The others are former Dallas City Council member Larry Duncan, who served as board president of Dallas County Schools; Rick Sorrells, the agency’s former superintendent; Robert Leonard, the CEO of the stop-arm camera company that took millions from DCS; and Swartwood, who was an associate of Leonard’s.
“The government may want more time to access Mr. Caraway’s agreement of cooperation and run down leads,” Coggins said. “Or they may want time to complete the report. Or it could be a little bit of both.”
Caraway certainly hasn’t locked himself in the house since his guilty plea this summer. He has been spotted at District 4 candidate forums, garnering more applause than the men and woman running to fill his seat. And despite the pending prison sentence, last month he continued his tradition of handing out Thanksgiving turkeys — only this time, in Lancaster.
“I did have to buy these turkeys this time, not that I could afford it,” he told KDFW-TV (Channel 4). “At the end of the day, it’s for a beautiful cause ... The Lord has blessed me.”
Right now, Caraway and Sorrells are scheduled to find out their fates on April 5. Two weeks later, it will be Larry Duncan’s turn — if the schedules hold.
Leonard, the CEO and chairman of Force Multiplier Solutions who pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges shortly before Caraway cut his deal with the feds, also had a Dec. 14 date. But for now, at least, the benefactor to many Dallas political candidates will be last to find out his time behind bars: His sentencing has been pushed back all the way to May of next year.
Swartwood was supposed to have been sentenced in August. But that did not happen.
A representative for the U.S. attorney’s office said Friday only that his sentencing is set for early 2019. There is no exact date, said Erin Dooley, because “the exact date is still under seal.”