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Ex-school boss sentenced to more than six years

Published 1:00pm Friday, November 15, 2013

The former superintendent of a school district in the Mississippi Delta has been sentenced to more than six years in prison for bribery related to a $1.4 million reading program for children.

Former Greenville Public School District superintendent Harvey Franklin was sentenced to 76 months on Wednesday for taking more than $270,000 in bribes to influence the school board to use the program. He also was ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution along with the woman who owned the program, his lawyer said.

Franklin must report to prison by Jan. 6.

Lisa Ross, Franklin’s lawyer, said in phone interview Thursday that Franklin “is considering his options” and is likely to appeal the sentence.

Franklin pleaded guilty in August 2012.

Edna Goble, who owned Teach Them To Read in Conyers, Ga., pleaded guilty on Oct. 7, the same day her trial was to begin. Her reading program is called EDNA, for Early Detection Necessary Action. Goble awaits sentencing. Court records say prosecutors have recommended house arrest for her.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Dabbs said in a court filing last week that Franklin failed to disclose that he met with Goble in 2012 and told her that he would testify the money exchanged involved loans, not bribes. Dabbs said that would have made it difficult to prosecute Goble.

Ross had asked that Franklin be given a lower sentence than the federal sentencing guideline range of 70 to 87 months. She said prosecutors had initially agreed to recommend a lower sentence in exchange for Franklin’s cooperation, but changed their minds after Goble pleaded guilty.

In asking for a lower sentence, Ross also noted the “disparity” in sentences between Franklin and former Lafayette County supervisor Gary Massey, who was sentenced in 2008 to three years imprisonment — about half of what Franklin is facing — for similar misconduct.

Prosecutors maintain that Massey’s sentence was a mistake involving a miscalculation by both sides during plea negotiations.

Ross argued that the discrepancy between sentences wasn’t fair.

“Even if it was a disparity born out of a mistake, it’s still a disparity that should be corrected,” Ross told The Associated Press.

Ross’ court filings also noted that both Massey and Goble are white. Franklin is black.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Dabbs responded by saying that race had nothing to do with it.

“In his sentencing memo, Franklin makes a very serious allegation that he is being discriminated upon because of his race, an allegation which is wholly unsupported and not borne out by the facts and which may best be politely described as inaccurate,” Dabbs wrote in court documents.

Franklin became superintendent in Greenville in 2009. He resigned in May 2012.

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