It has already been a year since former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to fraud and tearfully apologized to the city’s children in the lobby of the federal courthouse.
But she will wait at least another six months before she finally learns her fate for steering contracts to The SUPES Academy and Synesi Associates in exchange for millions in anticipated kickbacks.
U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang on Monday set Byrd-Bennett’s sentencing hearing for April 13. She will follow her co-defendants, Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, whose sentencing hearings are set for March 24 and April 12, respectively.
Federal prosecutors have said they would recommend a prison sentence of roughly seven and a half years for Byrd-Bennett as long as she fully cooperates with them. She pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in October 2015. The judge delayed scheduling her sentencing hearing until prosecutors resolved the case against Solomon and Vranas.
Vranas pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and faces a maximum of five years in prison. But Solomon didn’t join his co-defendants until last week, when he pleaded guilty to one count of honest services wire fraud. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
SUPES and Synesi owners Solomon and Vranas plied Byrd-Bennett, their former employee, with meals, sports tickets and the promise of a 10 percent kickback on any business she steered from CPS or any other school district. The plot began before Byrd-Bennett even assumed a top-level job at CPS in 2012, and it continued after Mayor Rahm Emanuel elevated her to schools CEO.
In emails, they promised to pay the bulk of her proceeds as a “signing bonus” once she left CPS and returned as their employee, but she also wanted college funds for her beloved twin grandsons, writing, “I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit (:”