Baby-daddy imbroglio snares Twin Rivers Unified School District trustee Cortez Quinn
Alleged co-conspirator's boss accuses Sacramento district attorney of racial bias
Wet paper towels landed embattled Twin Rivers school-board member Cortez Quinn in the slammer last week. For his accused co-conspirator in a contentious paternity lawsuit, it may have been even less.
That’s according to the employer of Andre A. Pearson, a 36-year-old lab technician at Comprehensive Medical Inc., who now faces conspiracy and evidence-tampering charges.
On November 6, Pearson was booked on allegations that he helped Twin Rivers Unified School District trustee Quinn submit a false genetic sample last year, in an attempt to get out from under an ex-lover’s paternity suit.
The private civil matter blew into a countywide criminal probe.
According to court documents filed by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office, the 46-year-old Quinn failed to report roughly $55,000 in loans and gifts he accepted from Sherilene Chycoski, a widowed school-district employee with whom he was sexually involved.
Quinn allegedly racked up thousands in bank transfers, money orders and cash advances to keep a Vallejo property from falling into foreclosure and to repair his BMW, among other expenses. Investigators say the elected school-board trustee and former chief of staff to Assemblyman Roger Dickinson failed to make the required financial disclosures. He was scheduled to be arraigned yesterday, November 13, on 18 criminal counts, 15 of which are felonies.
Quinn announced a 90-day leave of absence from his school-board position. The Twin Rivers school district is expected to formally request his resignation next week.
But before the political melodrama, there was the baby-daddy one.
When Chycoski sued Quinn in civil court in 2011, the judge ordered a paternity test. Quinn acquiesced 10 months later after being threatened with court sanctions. (He already owes $10,000 in child-support payments to another woman, according to Yolo County court documents cited by the criminal complaint.) The results came back negative, and the family-court judge denied Chycoski’s request for a second test.
Investigators now say Quinn colluded with Pearson to submit someone else’s genetic material.
But Sue Ramsden, Comprehensive Medical’s president and CEO, said her employee is an honest man who’s the victim of “narrow-minded” racial bias. (Both Quinn and Pearson are black.)
“Once they saw [Pearson] was African-American, they stopped gathering any more evidence. It was like a lightbulb went off,” she told SN&R. “It fit their agenda, and they ran with it.”
Ramsden said she spoke to DA investigators at least four times. In an arrest-warrant affidavit and criminal complaint filed last week, the DA’s office cites those interviews in making its case against Pearson. According to the documents, Pearson told Ramsden he “got lucky because someone did him a favor” when he underwent his own paternity test. The complaint says Ramsden suspected Pearson of past misconduct, but was unable to prove it. (DA spokeswoman Shelly Orio told SN&R that Albert C. Locher, the assistant district attorney, has “full confidence in what Sue Ramsden told our investigator.”)
Ramsden told SN&R she was “baffled” by the DA’s conclusions.
“They took the information that they got and wove it into this story,” Ramsden said.
Pearson is a reliable, 11-year employee and devoted father of two, she said. And because her lab deals in court-ordered DNA tests, she said it uses video surveillance, open wall spaces and double-testing to prevent tampering.
Locher wouldn’t say whether his office has more evidence against Pearson. But the chain-of-custody process for collecting and filing DNA samples—and Pearson’s signature on various lab forms—means he needs to “provide a reasonable explanation for how that [false sample] could happen,” Locher said.
The DNA sample that was sent to a Nevada lab for testing belonged to neither Quinn nor Pearson.
The DA’s office had been looking into Quinn’s affairs since about September 2010, when the California Fair Political Practices Commission leveled him with a $14,000 administrative penalty for not reporting the money he accepted from Chycoski, the district’s visual-and-performing-arts director at the time.
The FPPC says he’s prohibited from accepting more than $250 from a district employee.
“That’s what originally brought us into investigating this matter,” Locher told SN&R.
The DA’s office has no jurisdiction when it comes to paternity disputes, Locher acknowledged, but needed to test Chycoski’s credibility, since her own affidavit raised some issues. The assistant DA said that made it necessary to “[get] to the bottom of this paternity matter.”
On August 20, Quinn took a bathroom break during a Twin Rivers school board meeting in North Highlands. Following him into the restroom was DA investigator Daniel Garbutt.
According to the criminal complaint, Quinn washed his hands in the sink and left. Garbutt retrieved the wadded-up paper towels Quinn dropped in the receptacle and delivered the damp trash to his office’s forensics lab, which pulled Quinn’s skin cells from them.
According to investigators, tests by lab criminalist Devin Johnson proved Quinn was the father of Chycoski’s son, born in December 2011.
Ramsden said it’s possible for a person to have multiple genomes, which could explain why the initial cheek swab from her lab differed from the skin-cell sample retrieved from a restroom trashcan.
Chycoski’s attorney, Lisa Wible Wright, said neither she nor her client would comment on an ongoing criminal matter.
As for Pearson, he’s been the object of false accusations before. Someone once told Ramsden that her employee accepted a bribe after agreeing to sell his hair to someone needing a clean DNA test. “Mr. Pearson is bald,” she said.
“We get these allegations all the time.”