BISD board member appears in court; Atkinson’s trial reset for April 6

Brownsville Independent School District Vice President Sylvia Atkinson appears in federal court Friday morning as she walks out through the front doors of Reynaldo G. Garza-Filemon B. Vela United States Federal Courthouse. Atkinson is charged with bribery.

BISD Vice President Sylvia Atkinson appeared in court for a motion hearing on Friday. A substantial portion of the proceedings were closed to the public.

Atkinson appeared before U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez, Jr. accompanied by her attorneys Noe Garza and Dale Robertson.

The hearing was held in relation to a sealed event uploaded into Atkinson’s case file dated Jan. 16. Various orders and events in the record have been placed under seal by the court since mid-December.

Atkinson was indicted last month on bribery charges alleging she used her position with the Brownsville Independent School District for personal gain.

The indictment accused the trustee of both soliciting and accepting a $10,000 bribe from an undercover FBI agent posing as an employee of Pink Ape Media, an advertising and film production company based in Brownsville.

Atkinson was accused of accepting payments of $4,000 and $6,000 from the undercover agent in order to place the company’s film production proposal on the school board’s Feb. 12 meeting agenda for potential approval.

Atkinson has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On Friday, Rodriguez implied that the reason for the seals was in part because information related to the case and possible co-defendants is not yet public.

Government prosecutors told the judge that “complex legal issues with regards to what is stated inside” the motion filed by Atkinson’s attorneys may require more time to prepare pending trial.

One attorney told the court that there may be a separate motion submitted on an issue brought up in the aforementioned motion. Additionally, attorneys mentioned the possibility of asking for a protective order stemming from sealed information.

Rodriguez granted Atkinson’s attorneys the ability to oppose a government motion under the seal of the court. Garza, Robertson, and the government’s counsel approached the bench to discuss the issue in private.

Rodriguez set Atkinson’s trial date back to April 6 in order to give both parties more time to prepare due to the nature of the prosecution and the complexity of the case.

Atkinson previously appeared for a closed hearing in the court’s chambers on Dec. 16.

esheridan@brownsvilleherald.com