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Crying Ex-CPS Chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett Sentenced To 4.5 Years For Bribery

By Emma G. Gallegos in News on Apr 28, 2017 8:00PM

Former Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett has been sentenced to 4.5 years for her role in a bribery scheme. The judge sentenced the disgraced chief after she pleaded for leniency through tears.

DNAinfo reports that during her 10-minute speech to the judge, she was barely audible because she was crying so hard. But through tears, she told the judge she took responsibility, that she was ashamed but also that the judge had been much harder than she ever imagined.

"I pray to God to help me find a way to redeem myself," she said, according to WBBM.

Here she is walking to today's sentencing:

Prosecutors asked for 89 months in the case, or about 7.5 years, while Byrd-Bennett asked for 3.5 years along with community service in the public schools system, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Byrd-Bennett has been ordered to pay $254,000 in restitution to CPS. She's also being sued by the district for $65 million.

Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and promised to help cooperate with the federal investigation. Otherwise she could have faced up to 20 years in prison, DNAinfo reports.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said after the sentencing, in a statement to the Sun-Times: “Barbara betrayed the public trust. She broke the law. She turned her back on the very children she was entrusted to serve, and the children of Chicago are owed much better than that. Today’s decision is a reminder that no one is above the law, and with justice now served the entire CPS community can continue to focus on building on the record academic success of Chicago students.”

Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, co-owners of the SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates, are also serving time in prison. Solomon, widely regarded as the scheme's mastermind, will serve 7 years in prison. Today Vranas was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Byrd-Bennett—referred to by Emanuel as "triple B"—was brought on in 2012 during a teachers' strike. She resigned in July 2015. During her tenure as schools chief, she awarded $23 million no-bid contracts to SUPES Academy in exchange for bribes and kickbacks, including meals, tickets to games and the promise of a cushy job with a $250,000 signing bonus once she was done with her stint in "public service."

When City Hall started asking questions, she gave them a piece of her mind and accused them of micro-managing.

She infamously once sent an email talking about what was in it for her: "I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit. (:"

The Chicago Teachers Union also slammed the Emanuel administration and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool in a statement following the sentencing:

“Today’s sentencing of former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett joins the shuttering of 50 schools in predominantly Black and Latino communities, the cover-up in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, the closure of city-run mental health clinics, and an ongoing email scandal on a list of embarrassments and transgressions Chicagoans have endured under the Rahm Emanuel administration.

Byrd-Bennett’s tenure as the head of CPS, in addition to her and Emanuel’s destruction of dozens of school communities in 2013, cost the district $20 million in cronyism and privatization, which continues to this day. Six-figure salaries and administrative costs have doubled under current CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, while spending on instruction has plummeted."

This post has been updated.