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Ex-school superintendent sentenced to 2 years for theft, embezzlement

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Former Shakopee Superintendent Rodney Thompson.
Former Shakopee Public Schools Superintendent Rodney Keith Thompson speaks to the judge alongside his attorney Peter Wold during his sentencing hearing inside the Scott County Courthouse on Thursday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

The former superintendent of the Shakopee Public Schools gave a tearful apology in Scott County Court Thursday just before a judge handed him a two-year sentence on 19 felony counts of theft and embezzlement. Rodney Keith Thompson, 53, admitted stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the district over his six years there. 

Thompson was forced to resign in 2017. According to the criminal complaint, he rang up personal expenses on a district purchasing card that included first-class airfare, Grand Ole Opry tickets, electronics, Vikings memorabilia, Harley Davidson jewelry and a $46 garden hose. 

In a Shakopee courtroom, Thompson stood with an attorney at the lectern handcuffed and wearing a prison uniform. He fought back tears as he addressed Judge Christian Wilton.

"I am not proud today, Thompson said. "I have had a lot of time to think about this, and I am very, very sorry." 

Former Shakopee Superintendent Rodney Thompson wipes his eyes.
Thompson wipes his eyes as he speaks to the judge next to his attorney Peter Wold during his sentencing hearing.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Thompson recalled a time about three years ago when he met the judge at a business function and heard about how Scott County's drug court gave defendants second chances. Thompson said he, too, would like a second chance. 

Judge Wilton said he'll get it after he serves his sentence. But Wilton also scolded Thompson for his greed. 

"You stole the taxpayers' money," Wilton said. "You used the money to buy trips and upgrade to first class, buy jewelry and things for your house, Vikings flags, TVs, speakers, a Kindle. All of this while being paid a couple hundred thousand dollars a year to do your job."

As part of a plea deal, Wilton handed Thompson a two-year sentence that'll run concurrently with a two-year federal sentence.

Thompson pleaded guilty last fall in U.S. District Court to soliciting a bribe from a contractor. Thompson got $44,000 in free home improvements in exchange for steering school district business to the company. 

About a half dozen Shakopee High School students watched from the gallery as their former superintendent faced the music. 

18-year-old Rachel Theis — who's about to graduate — told reporters after the hearing that she and her fellow students suffered the consequences of Thompson's thievery. 

"We had to cancel a lot of programs," Theis said. "All construction had to be put on hold. And he pleaded guilty and I definitely think he's guilty."

Thompson has already begun serving his time at the federal prison camp in Duluth. Besides the prison sentences, Thompson's state and federal plea agreements require him to pay the Shakopee Schools $74,673 in restitution.

Watch the sentencing hearing