Tuesday, October 13, 2015

EXTRA: That was quick! Or was it?

Former Chicago Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett got herself into the local political lore with that e-mail she sent, the one about having “tuition to pay and casinos to visit.”

BYRD-BENNETT: Trying to put issue to rest
An attitude that now has her in a position where she faces the possibility of a few years in a federal correctional institution, now that she has pleaded guilty on Tuesday to criminal charges alleging she directed contracts to an educational consulting firm that promised her assorted financial perks.

I’M SURE THEY weren’t presented to her as bribes, but that is the way they are being viewed by the U.S. attorney’s office – which last week said she was indicted on assorted charges.

Just as former 7th Ward Alderman Sandi Jackson’s only real action for which she’s now on her way to prison was signing income tax returns for herself and former Congressman husband Jesse Jr. It was the federal government that determined those returns were not fully accurate, and therefore worthy of incarceration for the couple.

But because Byrd-Bennett isn’t putting up anything of a fight, she was permitted on Tuesday to enter a plea to one count of wire fraud. The other dozen or so charges she faced last week have withered away into nothingness.

Not bad, particularly since federal prosecutors have said they will seek less than the 14 years in prison she could have got if she had been found guilty of all the charges she originally faced.

JACKSON: Prison for signing a tax form
BUT BYRD-BENNETT CAN’T say this ordeal is behind her.

Because the judge in question (Edmond Chong) isn’t about to sentence her until legal proceedings are done against a pair of co-defendants.

It seems that Byrd-Bennett is expected to cooperate with prosecutors against those defendants, and won’t know how long her own prison time will be until after things have settled. I’d hate to think her time waiting to be sentenced will be longer than the actual time she has to serve.

JACKSON: His actions got her too
Perhaps it seems I’m not taking all of this too seriously, or that I’m not appropriately outraged at the notion that Byrd-Bennett gave no-bid contracts to a company that used to employ her.

THE FACT IS that Byrd-Bennett resigned her post and we already have moved on to the new leadership of Forrest Claypool – who already is the butt of jokes for people determined to point out the public schools system’s every flaw.

BEAVERS: Also a gambling habit
Byrd-Bennett is already ancient history. Who probably wouldn’t be remembered anymore if not for her remark about needing money to feed her casino habit?

Which does little more than put her in a category with political people such as former alderman and Cook County commissioner William Beavers – who wound up doing his own short stint in prison because prosecutors objected to the idea of him using money from his campaign funds to help entertain himself at those casinos out on the fringe of the Chicago area.

Just think how many more politicos we’ll have facing criminal charges if our officials ever are able to get their acts together and approve construction of a casino within the city limits?


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