Originally created 07/13/06

Scheme garners 8 years in jail



ATLANTA - Linda Schrenko, who for eight years oversaw Georgia schools during two tumultuous terms as superintendent, will serve a prison term as long as her tenure in office and must pay more than $400,000 in restitution, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The prison sentence handed down by Judge Clarence Cooper was not surprising. The eight-year term was part of an agreement Ms. Schrenko struck earlier this year with federal prosecutors in return for pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy for her role in a scheme to funnel more than $600,000 in federal education grants into personal expenses and a failed 2002 bid for governor.

"Hopefully the sentence, and the humiliation you subjected yourself and your family to, will send a strong message to public officials on the state, local and national levels," Judge Cooper said during the sentencing. "It's regrettable, unfortunate and tragic that you put your personal needs above the children of the state."

Afterward, Ms. Schrenko was asked whether the judge's criticism is correct.

"In a way, yeah," she answered.

It was an anticlimactic end to a case that has included charges of corruption, tales of extramarital affairs, stories of plastic surgery and buzz about the faux fur that Ms. Schrenko wore to her first court hearing in 2004. The court battle and years of media reports leading up to it tarnished the reputation of the first woman elected to statewide office in Georgia.

"I made a lot of mistakes and I trusted people I shouldn't have trusted," Ms. Schrenko said while leaving court.

ABOUT THE CASE


CONVICTION: Former Georgia schools Superintendent Linda Schrenko pleaded guilty in May to two federal charges of conspiracy for her role in a scheme to funnel federal education grants into her 2002 campaign for governor.


SENTENCE: Ms. Schrenko has been sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay $414,887.50 in restitution. As a federal prisoner, she will not be eligible for parole. Her sentence will be followed by three years' supervised probation and 100 days of community service.


WHERE SHE WILL SERVE: U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper agreed with a request by Ms. Schrenko's attorney that he recommend she be sent to a federal facility in Tallahassee, Fla. The Federal Bureau of Prisons will make the final decision. She will remain free until she reports to prison, which her attorney expects will be in four to six weeks.


OTHER PLAYERS


Merle Temple

: Ms. Schrenko's former deputy - not yet sentenced

Stephan Botes: South African businessman - will be sentenced next month


Peter Steyn: Employee of Mr. Botes - found not guilty


- From staff and wire reports