A federal judge in Dallas has sentenced an attorney to six months in federal prison for his role in the bribery scandal that spelled the end of Dallas County Schools, the agency that used to operate the school buses for Dallas ISD and a number of other local school districts.
New Orleans lawyer Richard Reynolds is the sixth person to be sentenced in connection with an FBI investigation into the financial collapse of DCS, a scandal first uncovered in a months-long NBC 5 investigation.
Reynolds admitted he used his law firm to help facilitate and conceal some of the bribe payments made by school bus camera company owner Robert Leonard to Dallas County schools superintendent Rick Sorrells. Leonard and Sorrells are currently serving seven-year terms in federal prison, for their roles in the scheme which involved more than $3 million dollars in bribes and kickbacks which Sorrells spent on items including a Maserati, jewelry, and a luxury New Orleans vacation apartment, where NBC 5 Investigates found Sorrells in 2017.
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The scandal at DCS stretched all the way to Dallas City Hall, where Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway admitted taking $450,000 in bribes, some of that in exchange for a vote that allowed the DCS bus camera program to continue operating. Caraway is serving a four and a half year sentence.
At Thursday’s sentencing, Reynolds’ attorney asked Federal Judge Barbara Lynn to spare his client from prison saying that Reynolds’, “vision had been clouded” by his long time friendship with Leonard and said that Reynolds has significant medical problems that would make prison time more difficult.
Judge Lynn acknowledged that Reynolds had the least involvement of the defendants in the scandal but said that he still committed a very serious crime by allowing his law license to be used in what Lynn described as the “grotesque scheme” that hurt the Dallas community. In addition to six months in prison, Judge Lynn ordered Reynolds to pay a $25,000 fine.
Reynolds did not speak at the sentencing beyond answering brief questions. He was not the only one to help conceal bribe payments in the case. A close business associate of Robert Leonard, Slater Swartwood Sr., also pleaded guilty to charges that he functioned as a bag man, moving more than $2 million in payments to Sorrells. Swartwood Sr. was sentenced to 18 months.
The DCS contracts with Leonard’s camera company, Force Multiplier Solutions, saddled DCS with massive debt and nearly bankrupted the agency, which was shut down by Dallas County voters who elected to close DCS in the wake of the scandal.