4/16/2019Texas: School Bus Camera Felon Evades Jail Time
Instrumental figure in Dallas, Texas school bus camera corruption scandal gets off with a sentence of house arrest.
The former Dallas County Schools board president who helped drive the organization into bankruptcy by promoting school bus stop arm cameras in Texas will escape prison time. US District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn on Thursday sentenced Larry Duncan to house arrest for his role in the costly bribery and corruption scandal.
Judge Lynn imposed a sentence of six months of home confinement. Duncan will have to wear a GPS monitor on his ankle, but he can leave his house to go to work, church, a medical appointment or to attend educational programs. Thereafter, Duncan will spend three years on probation and do 200 hours of community service. Duncan will also have to pay $45,136 in back taxes to the IRS.
Duncan was given a plea deal allowing him to be charged only with failing to pay taxes on the $245,000 in campaign contributions he received from the school bus camera vendor Force Multiplier Solutions (now whose IP assets were acquired by BusPatrol). A total of $184,726 worth of those "campaign" donations went directly into Duncan's pocket. At most, Duncan could only have been sentenced to one year in prison on this felony charge. By contrast, Dwaine Caraway, a former powerful member of the Dallas city council, was sentenced to four years, eight months in prison for taking $450,000 in bribes from Force Multiplier CEO Robert Leonard.
Leonard distributed some $3 million in bribes to various politicians and local officials to secure the support he needed to install stop arm cameras on school buses. The plan initially succeeded for Force Multiplier, which collected $70 million from this investment in local politicians. Dallas County Schools, on the other hand, never saw the $11 million in annual profit that Duncan had promised. Instead, it would up losing $185 million on the deal. Voters dissolved Dallas County Schools when the scandal became public. An audit of the school bus system by the Denshaw Group found evidence that Duncan sought to evade accountability.
"Documents recovered in the digital media indicate that Larry Duncan... objects to public disclosure requirements likely intended to prevent potential conflicts of interest for public officials," the report explained. "These rules might ensure that the public is aware of any such potential conflicts of interest. These documents may be significant because they speak to the state of mind of Larry Duncan. A prosecutor may view them as relevant to the specific intent to commit the crimes discussed in this report."
Leonard and two other co-conspirators await sentencing later in the year. Former Dallas County Schools superintendent Ricky Dale Sorrells admited his guilt to taking bribes and Slater Washburn Swartwood Sr was caught laundering the money used to pay off local officials to support the school bus camera scheme.
Note: This article has been updated.