By MADELINE MARSHALL
WASHINGTON (January 26, 2012)—Former Prince George's County schools chief Andre Hornsby could see his jail time reduced after a federal appeals court Wednesday reversed three fraud convictions in his corruption case.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his three 2008 "honest-services wire fraud" convictions based on a new interpretation of the law from a 2010 Supreme Court decision in the case of former Enron President Jeffrey Skilling.
Hornsby's other convictions on witness and evidence tampering and obstruction of justice charges were upheld.
The 4th Circuit ordered the case back to U.S. District Court for a new sentencing, and Hornsby could see reduced jail time. He is serving a six-year sentence.
"We're obviously pleased that the court reversed the counts," said Hornsby's lawyer, Robert Bonsib.
Prosecutor Rod Rosenstein said he could retry Hornsby, and he's confident of a conviction, but hasn't decided yet if he will.
In 2004, Hornsby coordinated with his then-girlfriend, Sienna Owens, a sales representative with LeapFrog, to procure a $956,000 contract with Prince George's schools. He did not disclose his conflict-of-interest.
Owens then gave Hornsby half of her $20,000 commission from the sale as a "gift."
The honest-services wire fraud convictions were reversed because during the original trial, the jury was instructed that a finding of a conflict-of-interest was sufficient to find him guilty.
In the Skilling case before the Supreme Court two years after Hornsby's trial, honest-services fraud charges were interpreted to apply to "fraudulent schemes to deprive another of honest services through bribes or kickbacks."
Had the jury convicted Hornsby based on his knowledge of a kickback, not through his conflict of interest, the conviction would not have been reversed.
"This arises from time to time," said Rosenstein, "where the instructions the judge gave the jury were true, but the laws were changed."
Rosenstein said he believes the jury would have found Hornsby guilty "even through the kick-backs," a case he could press again in any new trial.
"It's too soon to tell" what sentence the judge will impose, Rosenstein said. "The surviving charges are pretty serious charges that could deserve 72 months on their own."