CHICAGO (AP) — The Latest the sentencing of the former head of Chicago Public Schools (all times local):
A federal judge has sentenced the former head of Chicago Public Schools to more than four years in prison for steering $23 million in city contracts to education firms in exchange for more than $2 million in bribes and kickbacks.
A tearful Barbara Byrd-Bennett apologized in court before she was sentenced Friday in Chicago. She said she was ashamed and led astray by a sense of entitlement as head of the nation’s third-largest school district.
U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang told the 68-year-old that the brazenness of bilking a cash-strapped school district suggested she never believed she’d get caught. The federal judge also said he wanted to send a message to other would-be corrupt officials.
Prosecutors asked for a prison term of more than seven years. Chang said he took into account Bennett’s good work during her career. He also noted her acts of kindness, including paying for the funerals of some students.
A federal judge in Chicago has sentenced a co-defendant in a Chicago Public Schools kickbacks scheme to 18 months in prison.
Friday’s hearing for Thomas Vranas came hours before the same judge was set to sentence the former head of CPS, Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
Byrd-Bennett steered $23 million in city contracts to Vranas and another education company executive, Gary Solomon, for kickbacks. Solomon received a seven-year sentence last month.
Judge Edmond Chang told Vranas that Chicago is plagued by corruption, but that this corruption is “all the worse” because it diverted funds from students striving to improve their lives.
Prosecutors wanted Vranas to serve three years in prison. The defense requested probation.
But Chang said Vranas wasn’t a central player in the scheme and praised his charitable work over the years.
A federal judge in Chicago is set to sentence the former head of the nation’s third-largest school district for steering $23 million in city contracts to education firms for $2.3 million in bribes and kickbacks.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett faces up to 20 years behind bars Friday. Prosecutors want 7½ years and the defense will seek 3½.
Prosecutors say the 68-year-old was already well-off, including a $250,000 salary as Chicago Public Schools CEO. They’ve said her decision to scam the 400,000-student district was “rooted in greed.”
Byrd-Bennett began her career as a teacher in low-income neighborhoods in New York City. She’s also held top education jobs in Detroit and Cleveland.
A defense filing says she feels “crushing humiliation and shame” for what she’s done and will speak in court before being sentenced.
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