GREENVILLE — Federal prosecutors are recommending house arrest for a Georgia woman charged with bribing a Mississippi school superintendent in a district that spent $1.4 million to use her reading program for children, according to court records.
Edna Goble, who owned Teach Them To Read in Conyers, Ga., did business with the Greenville Public School District in the Mississippi Delta. The reading program is called EDNA, for Early Detection Necessary Action.
Goble was indicted in December 2012 on 10 counts related to the bribery of Harvey Franklin, who had been the Greenville Public School District superintendent. Franklin — who moved to Mississippi from Georgia — used his position to influence the school board to enter a contract for Goble’s services in exchange for about $270,000 in bribes, prosecutors say. Franklin resigned as superintendent in May 2012.
The information that prosecutors will recommend six months of house arrest for Goble came Wednesday in a filing from Franklin’s lawyer. In the filing, attorney Lisa Ross, requests that Franklin be sentenced to less than the federal sentencing guideline range of 70 to 87 months.
Ross argues that Franklin shouldn’t be sentenced to five years or more if Goble gets a “slap on the wrist.” Federal sentencing guidelines are not mandatory and judges have discretion. Ross said Thursday that she had no comment on the case.
Ross wrote in her motion that prosecutors initially said they would recommend a shorter sentence for Franklin if he agreed to testify against Goble, but after Goble pleaded guilty, prosecutors said they wouldn’t seek a lower sentence for him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Clay Dabbs said Thursday in a court filing that Franklin failed to disclose a meeting with Goble in 2012 and his alleged assurances to Goble that he would testify that the money was loans, not bribes.
That, Dabbs wrote, would have made prosecuting Goble difficult.
“Had Franklin simply admitted the facts to which he had already pled guilty under oath, the government would have proceeded to trial with Edna Goble and if convicted, she would have faced sentencing with no request for leniency from the government,” Dabbs wrote.
Goble pleaded guilty to one count on Oct. 7, the same day her trial was to begin. She awaits sentencing. Goble’s lawyer, Joe Hollomon, was out of the office Thursday and didn’t immediately respond to a phone message.
Franklin, who was charged separately, pleaded guilty in August 2012 to one count in a bill of criminal information, a document usually filed when a defendant waives indictment and plans to plead guilty.
His sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday.
Ross also cited a case involving former Lafayette County supervisor Gary Massey, who was sentenced in 2008 to three years in a bribery scheme. Ross argues that Franklin shouldn’t face twice as long as Massey for similar misconduct.
Her filing notes that both Massey and Goble are white, and Franklin is black.
“Imposing a guideline sentence in this case will result in a disparity between two defendants who engage in nearly identical conduct in the same judicial district. Race is the only real difference between Dr. Franklin and Massey,” Ross wrote.
Dabbs also challenged that argument, saying Massey’s sentencing guideline was miscalculated by both sides during plea negotiations “by mistake,” but the government felt obliged to honor its commitment.
“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.
Goble’s indictment says she “paid kickbacks and bribes to Harvey Franklin in the form of paying off a loan on Franklin’s automobile, paying for remodeling and home improvements for Franklin’s personal home, paying the balance of Franklin’s personal credit card account, and paying for college tuition on behalf of Franklin’s children.”
Franklin insists he doesn’t deserve lengthy prison time for admitting to a bribery conspiracy.
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports the 56-year-old Franklin is set for sentencing Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen.
He pleaded guilty Aug. 2, 2012, to three counts of conspiracy to receive a bribe while he was the school district’s superintendent.
The U.S. Probation Service’s pre-sentence report calculates that he deserves a 70-87 months sentence.
Franklin insists he thought he would get leniency by promising to testify against Edna Goble, a Georgia consultant whose company gained $1.4 million from the Greenville Public School District to assist “at risk” reading students.
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