End near for grade sale case

Ashley Pittson

The majority of defendants accused of buying grades in DVC’s notorious cash-for-grades scandal will end up facing misdemeanor charges.

At a preliminary hearing in April, the judge dropped the felony charge for Joseph Chow, the first defendant to go this far in the court process for just buying grades, to a misdemeanor.

This ruling set a precedent for most of the 52 defendants, who, like Chow, are accused of having paid to have their grades changed, but were not ringleaders or “middlemen” in the plot.

Chow has a trial date set for July 8 in the misdemeanor courts in Walnut Creek.

His case made it apparent what kind of a deal was acceptable from the District Attorney’s office.

Katague has since come up with a plea offer to students who bought one to three grades or those who bought as many as five grades but did not go on to transfer to other schools.

Katague outlined the plea deal in a telephone interview Tuesday:-A choice of one of three misdemeanor charges – conspiracy, computer fraud, or education code violation. -Thirty days in county jail. -Two years of court probation. – Court fines. -Restitution (to be determined) if any at all. -De-briefing the district, if asked. -Transcripts to be changed back to their original state.-Acceptance of any other consequences from the school (i.e. nullification of a degree).

A misdemeanor is a crime that requires less punishment than a felony and is considered less serious, although it remains on a person’s record

Katague said he is confident that a lot of the defendants will take the offer.

“Most of them have come back and said to change their plea,” he said, although he wouldn’t give a number.

Erick Martinez, the last of the ringleaders, and Pawel Trybilo will go to trial before the Superior court in Martinez on June 9.

Martinez is alleged to have changed 27 grades, 21 of them his own. He faces nine felony counts of computer fraud and two felony counts of conspiracy.

Trybilo faces a felony count of conspiracy having four of his grades allegedly changed by Martinez. It is too late for Trybilo to take the new deal from Katague.

With all the big names in the case taken care of, except for those who are suspected to have fled the country, Katague’s attention has turned to what he calls the middlemen.

None of the middlemen have yet opted for pleading out, instead going ahead with trials.

Two middlemen, Montu Sharma and Mateen Rooshen have their trial date set for 1:30 p.m., May 27, in Martinez Superior Court. The judge ruled at their preliminary hearing, April 8, that the felonies against them stand because they brokered deals and had their own grades changed.

A preliminary hearing on May 20 is set for Francis Antonio, an accused middleman who brokered the most profitable grade change deal in the case.

Christopher Macatulad allegedly paid Antonio $4,000 to change 14 of his grades and then transferred to San Francisco State. He was not offered a misdemeanor deal and faces a felony count of conspiracy. His preliminary hearing is scheduled with that of Antonio, who is charged with two felony counts, one of computer fraud and one of conspiracy.

The grade changing scheme went on for around six years at DVC with nearly 400 grades changed. It has been the fodder for legislation that will help insure that this won’t happen again in California and made the college the subject of national and international headlines.