Former Shakopee Superintendent Rod Thompson is expected to plead guilty this week in both federal and district court on bribery and embezzlement charges.
Thompson's attorney, Peter Wold, said Wednesday that Thompson will take responsibility for his actions and plead guilty. Thompson was charged Tuesday in federal court with one count of felony solicitation of a bribe, and in Scott County District court he faces 21 charges of swindling and embezzling nearly $74,000 over five years from the school district.
According to the U.S. District Court calendar, Thompson's plea hearing on the federal charge is at 2 p.m. Thursday. According to the Scott County District Court calendar, Thompson's plea hearing in the state embezzlement case is at 1 p.m. Friday. He was previously scheduled to go to trial on Nov. 27.
“We’ve been working with the U.S. attorney and ... have reached a resolution of all the charges in state and federal court. That will be consummated this week," Wold said. “He’s very attached to the Shakopee School District. He’s anxious to set things straight, and he regrets all of the turmoil this has caused and hopes they can move on with great education for the students of the Shakopee School District.”
According to the federal charging document filed Tuesday, Thompson used his position and authority as superintendent from 2011 to June 2017 to obtain personal benefits from an unnamed company interested in being awarded contracts with the Shakopee School District. Namely, he solicited home improvement projects totaling more than $44,000, along with personal travel and attendance at sporting events in exchange for contracts with the school district, the feds allege.
Between November 2009 and September 2016, Thompson sent bills to the company for sporting events and recreational travel "for Thompson's personal consumption that had no connection to the legitimate business of the school district." The company paid for more than $5,000 in tickets to Vikings, Timberwolves and Twins games, martial arts events and a stay at a luxury hotel in Nashville during a personal trip, the charging documents say.
According to criminal defense attorney Marsh Halberg of Halberg Criminal Defense, the sentencing in Thompson's case is nuanced and it's difficult to predict the outcome. Halberg has no involvement in Thompson's cases but has practiced law for more than 40 years and is experienced in defending clients who have cases in both state and federal courts.
Depending on negotiations between the prosecutors and Wold, Thompson could receive anything from a stay of imposition — probation rather than prison time — to a couple of years in prison.
"They could choose to have no penalty, a concurrent penalty, or a consecutive penalty with separate offenses," Halberg explained.
The penalties that come with federal cases are often more severe than state cases, Halberg said. Without the federal charge, Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines dictate the maximum penalty on the state charge would be a 21-month stayed confinement. In that case, the judge would have discretion over whether Thompson serves part of that sentence in county jail or serves probation, Halberg said, but with no criminal history he would be unlikely to serve prison time.
Because Thompson intends to plead guilty Thursday to the federal bribery charge, he will receive up to three points for taking responsibility and admitting guilt. According to Halberg, those points will work in his favor when it comes time for sentencing. But he can be docked points for aspects of the case, including dollar amounts, sophisticated means or substantial hardship to the victim, Halberg said.
“Based upon the information available at this time, it appears both the county and the federal authorities have substantial evidence that would put them in a strong negotiating position in the cases," Halberg said. “The goal will be to take one punishment for everything involved.”
County Attorney Ron Hocevar has not returned a request for comment.