Rejecting her “explanation” of a bipolar disorder, U.S. Dist. Judge Richard J. Leon (D.C., G.W. Bush) sentenced Barbara Bullock to 9 yrs. in prison, and ordered her to pay $4.6 million in restitution to the Wash. Tchrs. Union (WTU). In pleading for leniency on Jan. 29, Bullock and her lawyer offered the mental disorder, not as a justification, but as an explanation of why she used millions in union funds to pay for her shopping trips to Neiman Marcus, Saks and Tiffany’s from 1995 to late 2002.
Judge Leon shot back that only her age — 65 — kept him from trying to impose a sentence much longer than the maximum 10 yrs. she could have gotten for pleading guilty. “This is a tragedy of self-destruction, a tragedy of which you were the architect,” he told the frmr. WTU president from the bench. “You so badly abused a vital institution in this city.” In addition the prison time and restitution, Judge Leon also ordered Bullock to serve 3 yrs. in a halfway house after she completes her prison time, and perform 3,000 hrs. of community service “as a down payment toward the incredible debt you owe this city and its teachers as a result of your heinous, fraudulent acts. While ordering the restitution, Judge Leon admitted that it was “highly unlikely” she ever could repay the stolen funds.
Still facing trial because of their refusal to accept any deals with the U.S. Attny are frmr. WTU exec. asst. Gwendolyn Hemphill and ex-WTU treasurer James O. Baxter II. Federal prosecutors charge that they, along with Bullock and 3 other WTU employees conspired to embezzle funds from the WTU, and used phony companies to cover their theft. They also refused to submit a required audit of the union’s finances to the Amer. Fedtn. of Teachers (AFT). When AFT officials threatened not to seat WTU delegates at their 2002 convention, Bullock and her co-conspirators came up with the money by increasing monthly dues deductions from member’s paycheck from $16 to $160. Complaints from teachers to the AFT finally forced an investigation which brought the embezzlement to light. [Washington Post, 1/30/04]