Ex-Cleveland school chief goes to prison

(Chicago) - Former Cleveland schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was sentenced today to 4.5 years in prison, she could have gotten 7 years behind bars.

Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to a $20 million bribery and kickback scheme while serving as head of the Chicago Public Schools. 

There has been speculation that Byrd-Bennett may have tried to direct some of the kickbacks to the sons of her daughter, Nailah Byrd, who serves as the Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts, but so far, no indictments have been handed up. 

Court documents allege Byrd-Bennett wrote in a 2012 email about her eagerness to make money, including to help relatives pay for college.

"I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit," Byrd-Bennett wrote, according to prosecutors.

Her lawyer, Michael Scudder, said she felt "crushing humiliation and shame" for her crimes. He noted that since her indictment, her name has been stripped from the title of a Cleveland training center.

As for why she took part in the scheme, Scudder wrote: "Nobody has struggled more with this question than Barbara herself." 

When scrutiny of district contracts grew in 2013, Byrd-Bennett began deleting potentially incriminating emails, according to prosecutors. 

She resigned in June 2015, as word spread of an investigation.Prosecutors said in their sentencing memo that they would have asked for a stiffer sentence but that Byrd-Bennett deserved credit for agreeing to cooperate soon after her arrest.

In exchange for pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud in 2015, prosecutors agreed to drop 19 other counts of fraud charged in the original indictment.

(Photo by Mary Davis/WTAM)

(c) 2017 by iHeartMedia & the Associated Press. 

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