Tag Archives: sentencing

Barbara Byrd-Bennett finally due for sentencing Friday

(CHICAGO) Two years have passed since the FBI confronted the woman hand-picked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to teach the children of Chicago.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett sat down with federal agents that day in April 2015. And then, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools “lied about just about everything,” prosecutors say.

She had a lot to hide.

In an extraordinary chapter in Chicago’s long history of graft, the feds ultimately learned a greedy businessman had engineered Byrd-Bennett’s installation at the top of CPS, the third-largest school district in the nation. Educational consultant Gary Solomon hoped Byrd-Bennett would steer millions to his companies. In return, he promised to pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks.

Not only did Byrd-Bennett oblige, but in their substantial correspondence she authored a nine-word, emoji-punctuated email that secured her place in Chicago’s corruption hall of fame: “I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit (:”.

Now, 18 months after a grand jury hit Byrd-Bennett, Solomon and businessman Thomas Vranas with a 23-count indictment, Byrd-Bennett, 67, is finally expected to learn her fate Friday. She is due for sentencing at 1 p.m. in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Before Chang hands down his sentence, Byrd-Bennett’s lawyers have promised she will explain why “a highly educated professional of incredible accomplishment” would “engage in such blatantly wrong and deplorable conduct.”

“Nobody has struggled more with this question than Barbara herself, and at her upcoming sentencing, she will address the issue candidly with the court in her own words,” Michael Scudder, Byrd-Bennett’s attorney, wrote in a memo to the judge earlier this month.

Prosecutors will ask the judge to send Byrd-Bennett to prison for 89 months. Byrd-Bennett, who never actually pocketed the promised kickbacks, will ask for only three and a half years. She also wants a chance to perform “very substantial community service, including helping public school systems and their officials adhere to complete integrity and transparency.”

Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to wire fraud in October 2015. Vranas, 36, pleaded guilty to a bribe conspiracy in April 2016 and is also set to be sentenced Friday morning. Last month, Chang sentenced Solomon, a 49-year-old former dean at Niles West High School, to seven years in prison for wire fraud. Solomon has indicated he plans to appeal. All three still face a lawsuit filed by CPS that seeks to claw back any of the millions spent in the fraud.

Byrd-Bennett worked as a consultant for Solomon and Vranas at The SUPES Academy LLC and Synesi Associates LLC after running school systems in Cleveland and Detroit. She was then sent to CPS in 2011 to coach a short-lived Emanuel appointee, but she was quickly tapped to be Chicago’s “interim” chief education officer in April 2012.

That same month, she secretly signed a “consulting agreement” with Solomon and Vranas, agreeing she would receive a percentage of the gross revenues from any contract she could steer their way. Solomon promised to stash the money away for her in accounts for her twin grandsons and turn it over to her as a “signing bonus” when she later returned to his payroll.

Solomon was also working behind the scenes. He told the mayor’s deputy for education in a July 2012 email that CPS’ CEO at the time, Jean-Claude Brizard, wanted out of his job — and Byrd-Bennett was “all in.”

By July 24, 2012, Solomon was applauding Byrd-Bennett in an email that read, “Congrats Madam CEO!!!” The rest of the city wouldn’t learn of Byrd-Bennett’s promotion for three more months.

Once in charge of CPS, Byrd-Bennett steered some $23 million in no-bid contracts to Solomon’s companies in late 2012 and 2013. The guilty pleas stemmed from the first one, a $2 million contract for principal training that the school board approved the same day as her $250,000-a-year contract to be CEO.

“She sold her integrity and sold out the students of the Chicago Public Schools, and then she worked to enrich herself and her co-schemers at the expense of CPS, its students, its teachers, its administrators, and the City of Chicago,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Church wrote.

But before the scheme was revealed, Emanuel fondly referred to Byrd-Bennett as “B3.” She led CPS through much of his first term, guiding the schools system through a 2012 teachers’ strike and the high-profile controversial shuttering of a record 50 schools in 2013. Her lawyers referred to both as “accomplishments” in their recent memo to the judge.

Her tenure ended when FBI subpoenas landed at the district in April 2015 — days after voters gave Emanuel a second term as mayor. Byrd-Bennett, Solomon and Vranas wouldn’t be indicted until October of that year. Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty days after she was charged.

Prosecutors said at the time they would recommend a sentence of roughly seven years in exchange for Byrd-Bennett’s cooperation with their investigation. Acknowledging that Byrd-Bennett first lied to the FBI when confronted by agents, Church has said Byrd-Bennett ultimately “cooperated first, and she cooperated fully.”

After admitting her role in the scheme to the judge, Byrd-Bennett also gave a tearful apology to the schoolchildren of Chicago, and their families.

“They deserved much more,” she said, “much more than I gave to them.”

— Chicago Sun-Times

Dennis Hastert gets 15 months in prison in hush money case

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives at the federal courthouse Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Chicago, for his sentencing on federal banking charges which he pled guilty to last year. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert arrives at the federal courthouse Wednesday,April 27, 2016, in Chicago, for his sentencing on federal banking charges which he pled guilty to last year. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

By Nick Gale, WLS News

(CHICAGO)  Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has been sentenced to 15 months in prison and a $250,000 fine in a hush-money case.

Hastert acknowledged in court this morning that he abused some boys while he was the wrestling coach at Yorkville High School, decades ago. In a shock to those in the courtroom, one of the alleged victims was Scott Cross, brother of former Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross. Scott Cross testified at Wednesday’s sentencing, saying he decided to do so after Hastert went to his brother asking for a letter of support. Scott Cross says he told his brother, wife and parents about the abuse after details emerged in the case.

Hastert was not sentenced for his action back when he was at Yorkville, but rather for a bank fraud case where he illegally structured bank withdrawals to pay hush money to “Individual A.” But before sentencing, the judge had strong words for Hastert.

“If you told the truth, I’m not sure we’d be here today but you didn’t and here we are,” said Judge Thomas Durkin. He also called Hastert a child molester on several occasions.

Durkin has yet to set a date when Hastert will have to report to prison. He left court with his family.

Hastert’s lagal troubles are not over, however. “Individual A” has filed a lawsuit against Hastert claiming a breach of contract.

@ 2016 WLS News

Individual “A” Sues Hastert for Breach of Contract

By Nick Gale, WLS-AM News

(CHICAGO) Ahead of his sentencing hearing later this week, the person at the center of the criminal case against former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, has filed a lawsuit claiming breach of contract.

​Individual A, identified in the new lawsuit as “James Doe,” is seeking the remaining $1.8 million Hastert promised to pay him. The lawsuit was filed in Kendall County.

Hastert, who had claimed he was being extorted, promised to pay Individual A $3.5 million to cover up sexual misconduct from Hastert’s days as a teacher and wrestling coach at Yorkville High School. He pleaded guilty to violating banking laws after withdrawing large sums of money. He lied to the FBI about the cash, which was used to pay Individual A, who has collected $1.7 million so far.

Hastert will be sentenced Wednesday, where one victim and the sister of another victim are expected to testify. Attorneys have asked for probation for the 74-year-old. Prosecutors have asked for six months, but the judge could sentence Hastert to a maximum of five years in prison.

@ 2016 WLS-AM News

As Little As Eight Months for Byrd-Bennett

Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Connected to Chicago w/Bill Cameron, Photo by Bill Cameron
Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Connected to Chicago w/Bill Cameron, Photo by Bill Cameron

By Bill Cameron, WLS News

(CHICAGO)  The former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, pleaded guilty today to steering CPS contracts to a former employer in anticipation of kickbacks and promises of a job after her time with CPS was up.

Byrd-Bennett was all business in federal court, respectfully telling the judge, “I plead Guilty.” All she asked for and got was a cup of water.

In her plea agreement, she agrees to cooperate with the government for other trials. In exchange, the government agrees to drop all but one wire fraud count and recommends a 66 percent reduction to the low end of the sentencing guidelines. That means her sentencing could be as low at eight months in prison.

Byrd-Bennett could testify against two co-defendants. She is scheduled to be sentenced next year.

@ 2015 WLS News