Ex-BISD trustee’s sentencing delayed; Atkinson date now April 20

Brownsville Independent School District (BISD) board of trustee Sylvia P. Atkinson walks with her attorneys Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, from the Brownsville, Texas Federal Courthouse to a pickup truck after a grand jury finds Atkinson guilty on federal bribery charges and will face sentencing on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP)

Former BISD Board of Trustees Vice President Sylvia P. Atkinson’s request to extend her sentencing hearing has been granted, pushing back her sentencing to April 20, 2021.

U.S. District Judge Fernando Rodriguez Jr. granted the sentencing extension motion on Thursday, federal court documents show.

Atkinson’s sentencing had been scheduled for Feb. 9, 2021.

Also reflected in the court docket is that Houston defense attorney Josh Schaffer is now representing Atkinson. Schaffer replaces Brownsville attorneys Noe Garza and Dale Robertson. In November, a federal jury found Atkinson guilty on eight counts of bribery.

Atkinson faced eight counts of bribery in connection with a movie project that was in the exploratory stages in February 2019 when she was vice president of the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees. The case began that December when a federal grand jury indicted her on bribery charges surrounding the purported movie project and a Feb. 12, 2019 board meeting.

A federal grand jury indicted Atkinson in December 2019 on eight counts of bribery, conspiracy to commit bribery and violation of the state travel act bribery statute.

A December 2018 incident referred to by government attorneys in the indictment as “The Movie Project” involved Atkinson allegedly 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 faces up to 45 years in prison and a fine that could total $2 million, in addition to any funds subject to forfeiture.

Through her attorneys Atkinson said that she respectfully disagrees with the jury’s verdict and plans to appeal.

She remains free on a $50,000 bond.

lmartinez@brownsvilleherald.com