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Former Brownsville ISD trustee sentenced to 80 months in prison

6 months 4 days 4 hours ago Wednesday, May 26 2021 May 26, 2021 May 26, 2021 8:55 AM May 26, 2021 in News - Local

A former Brownsville ISD school board trustee was sentenced Wednesday to more than six years in prison.

Sylvia Atkinson was convicted in November for her role in a bribery scheme.

Even though she is scheduled to report to the U.S. Marshal's office in June - her attorney says the fight's not over.

ATKINSON TRIAL COVERAGE: Jury finds Brownsville ISD Trustee Sylvia P. Atkinson guilty on federal bribery charges

Atkinson's new addition to her defense team - Houston lawyer Josh Schaffer - argued for a much lower sentence.

Schaffer laid out a long list of reasons for leniency from the judge that included Atkinson’s otherwise clear legal record, her claimed mental health issues and gambling addiction, and references to other recent sentencings such as that of former State District Judge Rudy Delgado.

Delgado received a five-year sentence for making decisions in cases for cash.

ATKINSON TRIAL COVERAGE: FBI informant testifies about secret recordings in Sylvia Atkinson bribery case

"Dr. Atkinson - as a school board member - engages in the conduct that she was convicted of and gets a greater sentence. That makes no sense,” Schaffer said. “And it should upset the entire community."

Schaffer said the sentence is an example of a broken justice system.

"There's different treatment of different people,” Schaffer said. “It should undermine faith and confidence in the government's ability to make decisions about who it prosecutes, how it prosecutes them, and what it asks for. There's a double standard and it's not just down here, it's everywhere."

ATKINSON TRIAL COVERAGE: Prosecutors: Federal agents were investigating state district judge in Cameron County

U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr. said during the hearing that a strict sentence was necessary to deter other public officials in south Texas from committing crimes abusing public trust.

Judge Rodriguez Jr. also said Atkinson lied throughout the entirety of the trial, attempting to mislead the jury.

Schaffer said Atkinson cooperated fully with the government.

ATKINSON TRIAL COVERAGE:
Atkinson takes witness stand on sixth day of bribery trial
Testimony wraps up in Atkinson bribery trial
Documents detail how Atkinson profited from tablet deal at Rio Hondo ISD 

"I guess the message to the community for anybody else who's willing to do that is maybe spare yourself, and don't."

Schaffer added that he and Atkinson have offered to expose other corruption in Cameron County. During the trial, other schemes were revealed involving Atkinson, a former state district judge, and a current TSTC trustee.

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