Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he was surprised and dismayed that the former board president of Dallas County Schools is not going to prison for his role in the DCS criminal conspiracy.
"Now I'm not a lawyer and I don't understand this. But so many people question the equity in our criminal justice system. This is Exhibit A," Rawlings said in an exclusive interview with NBC 5's Meredith Land.
Rawlings was referencing the differences in the punishment for Larry Duncan, who led the DCS board for over a decade, and former Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway.
The latest news from around North Texas.
Duncan was placed under house arrest for six months, given three years of probation, and ordered to pay more than $45,000 restitution after pleading guilty to tax evasion in the DCS scandal.
As part of the same corruption case, Caraway was sentenced last week to more than four and a half years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than a $500,000 million in restitution after pleading guilty to tax evasion and wire fraud.
Both Caraway and Duncan were implicated in a scandal that involved shady business deals between DCS and a surveillance camera company – deals worth millions of dollars -- that all failed, costing taxpayers more than $100 million.
Caraway has admitted he took an estimated $450,000 in bribes, in exchange for his political influence at City Hall, from the owner of the camera company.
Duncan, as DCS board president, received nearly $250,000 in political campaign contributions – most of it coming from the same company owner. He has admitted he used some of he money for personal expenses, and did not report the income to the IRS.
Several DCS employees have told NBC 5 Investigates they largely blame Duncan for the loss of their jobs, and the demise of the agency.
And Mayor Rawlings seemed to agree.
"It just blows me away that he stays in house arrest, and he was the chairman of the organization that made all of this happen," he said, adding, "He brings the whole organization down, the taxpayers down."
"I mean, Councilman Caraway's issue was bad, but he never was in control of the city council on this. And Duncan was," Rawlings said, repeating: "It just blows me away."
Duncan's lawyer could not be reached for comment, while a spokesman for U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn, who sentenced both Caraway and Duncan, said the judge would have no further comment from what she said in court.
At that time, Lynn said house arrest was appropriate because Duncan has medical issues that would be difficult to treat in prison.
She also said in sentencing Duncan that she could not consider whether he was involved in the wider conspiracy at DCS because the government only charged him with tax evasion, and not bribery-related offenses.
Duncan's attorney agreed that his client's case is different, telling the judge, "It's not the best headline. It's not bribery and kickbacks. It's income tax evasion."
Federal prosecutor Andrew Wirmani responded that Duncan had committed "an abuse of trust" while serving as head of the DCS board.
Lynn said she was also "admittedly suspicious about all of this," given that Ducan received campaign donations from someone involved in bribing other officials.
But she added that she could not make decisions based on suspicions.
If Duncan had indeed been involved in the conspiracy plot, Lynn told him, "then you were lucky with the result here."
The owner of the camera company, Bob Leonard, and the former superintendent of DCS, Rick Sorrells, have also pleaded guilty to their roles in the criminal conspiracy and are scheduled later to go before Lynn for sentencing.
While surprised by Duncan's punishment, Rawlings told NBC 5 he had no problem with Caraway's sentence.
"Bad decisions on his part. I'm glad he's been sentenced and spending the time," the mayor said, adding: "He needed to pay his dues to the public."