July 12, 2006
Eight years in prison and nearly half a million dollars in restitution...those are the orders of a federal judge for former state school superintendent Linda Schrenko.
Schrenko had already agreed to an eight-year prison sentence, but what she may not have been expecting was to lose something she's held dear for 34 years: her teaching certificate.
Schrenko arrived at the federal building in Atlanta Wednesday with a cast on her arm.
"I managed to break it," she said. "I was clumsy, fell down and broke it."
Before sentencing, Ms. Schrenko told News 12 she hopes to continue in prison something she's been involved with for three decades.
"If there's an opportunity to help them learn to read to get a better job when they get out, that'll keep me busy," she said.
But less than one hour later, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission served Ms. Schrenko with papers saying they intended to take away her teaching certification, something she'd held since 1972.
When Judge Cooper sentenced Ms. Schrenko to eight years in federal prison, he tacked on more than $400,000 in restitution, chastising her for violating the trust the people of Georgia had placed in her.
That sentiment was echoed by US Attorney David Nahmias.
"Any violation of public trust has serious consequences," he told News 12.
Ms. Schrenko wrote a letter to the judge about her role in the scheme to steal money meant for Georgia schoolchildren.
"I basically told him that as I learned and heard testimony coming in, I realized things were going on that shouldn't have been and I had responsibility for that," she said. "Your name's on the ticket, you're responsible."
However, prosecutor Dan Caldwell characterized Ms. Schrenko's involvement this way: "Ms. Schrenko entered a plea of guilty and was actively involved in conduct as evidenced by testimony, and it was far more than Ms. Schrenko relying on others."
Ms. Schrenko, the first woman elected to statewide office in Georgia, said this was the hardest lesson of all: "I'm most sorry for getting into politics in the first place. I don't advise anybody poor get in."
Ms. Schrenko is likely to be poor after serving her eight years in federal prison.
She declared bankruptcy in 2003, and part of her small hourly wages from her work in prison will go to victims--in this case, Georgia schoolchildren.
Investigators took her Toyota Rav 4 after she arrived for court. They will auction the vehicle, and the proceeds will also go to the victims in this case.
And News 12 has learned Merle Temple's wife bonded him out of jail for $55,000 in cash. He's due back in less than a month for his sentencing.
Former federal prosecutor Jerry Froelich told News 12 Temple had cut a deal with prosecutors and is now facing the possibility of more prison time with Schrenko.
It's not the end for the other players in the Schrenko conspiracy case.
Temple will be sentenced on August 10.
South African businessman Stephan Botes, who was convicted during the trial, will be sentenced on August 22.
Miller Finley, another former deputy superintendent for Ms. Schrenko, will be sentenced July 21. He pleaded guilty to lying to investigators.
Former campaign manager Richard Leonard will be sentenced for his misdemeanor charge of criminal information on August 24.
And Johnny Turner, Botes' company controller, will be sentenced on September 7.