Friday, September 9, 2016

Judge locks up 4 more principals for robbing students: 'They deserve better'

Judge locks up 4 more principals for robbing students: 'They deserve better':

Judge locks up 4 more principals for robbing students: 'They deserve better'

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One by one, the convicted principals pleaded for mercy, insisting they lived for their students and had suffered enough already.
One called himself “a hero.”
But the judge sentenced them all to prison — longer than the defendants preferred, but shorter than what prosecutors had hoped — for helping a millionaire businessman cheat the state’s poorest schoolchildren out of $2.7 million in supplies.
“They need to know that they all deserve better than what these principals gave us,” U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said Thursday in sentencing four more Detroit principals to prison for stealing from the students they were supposed to protect.
In a sensational school corruption trial that has triggered public outrage and planted a bull's-eye  on Detroit’s struggling schools, Roberts handed down sentences that ranged from six months to one year to four ex-principals who took kickbacks fromvendor Norman Shy as rewards for approving his phony invoices. The scheme, prosecutors said, cheated DPS out of $2.7 million in school supplies that were paid for but never delivered.
Prosecutors had argued for stiffer penalties — in some cases double what the defendants got — but Roberts took into account the principals' otherwise clean records and years of good deeds.
For Spain Elementary Principal Ronald Alexander, whose school won a $500,000 giveaway on the Ellen DeGeneres talk show in February, any prison sentence was too severe. At least that’s what he argued to the judge as he called himself “a hero”who lived for his students and school community.
“All I have ever done is give my best to these children,” Alexander said. “I buried three students because the kids’ parents didn’t have money — out of my own pocket … I love this school. It think it's unfair."
Alexander, who received a one-year prison sentence for accepting $23,000 in kickbacks from Shy and a $23,000 restitution order, blamed his legal troubles on the vendor.
"Mr. Shy — he did me wrong. He was saying he gave me donations," Alexander said, referring to the gift cards and checks that Shy gave him over the years.
Alexander said he spent it on the kids.
"I did not pad my pockets … some of the gift cards are still at home,"  he said later, blaming Shy again. "He's a known crook and he's been doing it for years."
Alexander also stressed that he needed to stay out of prison so that he could care for his 87-year-old mother. He also talked about his army of supporters — students, staff, religious leaders and the parent association at Spain Elementary School, which wrote the judge a letter saying it wants Alexander back.
"Nobody knows how bad I feel to have to go out from my job like this," Alexander said. ,
"I'm sad. I'm hurt. I feel bad. … I should be judged by the life I have lived. … I'm not the bad person that the federal (government) has accused me" of being.
Roberts reminded him that he had pleaded guilty.
"Despite your guilty plea, it sounds to me that you think you're guilty of nothing," said Roberts, who then quoted Alexander's plea agreement, in which he admitted that he approved fraudulent invoices "for school supplies that were never delivered to Spain Elementary."
"This is verbatim from your (plea) agreement," Roberts said. "This court and government doesn't have to make up anything. You signed it."
Roberts also rebuffed Alexander’s claim that he was hoodwinked by Shy.
"You are not blameless. You had everything in your hands," Roberts said. "Mr. Shy did not make you commit a crime."
Roberts also handed down a one-year sentence to former principal Gerlma Johnson, who came to court dressed in all black and sobbed after learning her punishment for accepting $22,884 in kickbacks from Shy.
Johnson, 60, the former principal at Charles Drew Academy and Earhart Elementary-Middle School, pleaded guilty to bribery in May and said she spent her kickbacks in two ways: buying jewelry, perfume and clothing for herself and helping her school.
In addition to the year behind bars, Roberts ordered Johnson to pay $22,884 in restitution to DPS.
“You essentially robbed Peter to pay Peter. It was their money,” Roberts said, referring to the students who were cheated out of school supplies.
Johnson said she was sorry.
"I apologize to DPS, and most of all, I apologize to my students,” she said.
Former principal Tanya Bowman also was apologetic as she received a nine-month prison sentence for accepting $12,500 in kickbacks from Shy.
The former principal of Osborn Collegiate Academy of Mathematics, Science and TechnologyJudge locks up 4 more principals for robbing students: 'They deserve better':