State schools chief Bill Honig pleaded innocent to four felony conflict-of-interest counts in Superior Court on Monday and afterward again accused state Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren of pursuing the prosecution out of "political motivations."
Lungren "is using the criminal justice system to settle political scores," Honig told reporters after the brief arraignment proceedings, "either to advance his career or to pay off his right-wing supporters."
Lungren has denied that there is any political motivation for the four-count indictment, which accuses Honig of using public money to pay consultants who were employed by the Quality Education Project, an enterprise run by Honig's wife, Nancy, out of the family residence in San Francisco for several years.
Hugh Levine of San Francisco, Honig's lawyer, said the indictment "carries the stench of dirty politics," adding, "when you follow the money in this case, none of it winds up in Bill or Nancy Honig's pocket, period," he said.
However, sources familiar with the case pointed out that the indictment does not charge that public money wound up in the Honigs' bank accounts but that Honig put himself in a position to control contracts that benefited the Quality Education Project, a parent-involvement program.
Each of the charges against Honig carries a possible jail sentence of up to three years. His attorney was granted a 30-day delay to prepare pretrial motions.