- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2006

Federal prosecutors want to reduce the prison sentence of former Washington Teachers’ Union President Barbara A. Bullock, the leader of a multimillion-dollar embezzlement of teacher dues, for her help in identifying and convicting others in the scam.

Bullock could be out of prison in about five years under a recommendation made Friday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, according to documents filed in federal court in the District.

Prosecutors said Bullock gave “substantial assistance” in the investigation of union office manager Gwendolyn M. Hemphill and treasurer James O. Baxter II.

They told a judge that Bullock “put a human face on the core conspiracy.”

The reduction of Bullock’s sentence by two years and two months, followed by a year in a halfway house, would mean she could end up serving significantly less prison time compared to Hemphill and Baxter.

The recommendation still must be approved by a judge.

Hemphill and Baxter were convicted last year of embezzlement, money laundering, conspiracy and wire fraud after Bullock testified against them.

Hemphill began serving an 11-year sentence last month in a federal prison in Connecticut.

Baxter is scheduled to report Aug. 24 to a prison in Petersburg, Va.

Bullock already had been sentenced to federal prison for more than nine years, which she began serving in 2004.

But she appealed the sentence, and a federal appellate court last month sent the case back to U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon for resentencing.

Judge Leon said during Hemphill’s sentencing in May that Bullock was the greediest of the former union officials involved in the scandal.

However, Bullock cooperated with prosecutors while Hemphill and Baxter did not.

The proposed change in her sentence could allow Bullock out of prison at about the time Hemphill and Baxter are roughly halfway through their respective prison sentences.

“She appeared to be a truthful witness, and the jury apparently believed her,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James W. Cooper said about Bullock’s testimony in the court memo sent to the judge last week.

According to the memo, Bullock also told investigators how former union leaders created a letter to the District to deduct excessive dues from teacher paychecks to create a pool of more than $720,000 to pay overdue bills and give themselves bonuses.

“Although the government was able to prove forensically that Baxter was the creator of the document … the defendant’s testimony provided a human face and colorful detail,” Mr. Cooper stated.

Attorneys for Baxter have blamed the embezzlement on Bullock.

A defense sentencing memo filed by Baxter’s attorney stated his client sought to put a $5,000 monthly cap on the union’s American Express card, but Bullock overruled him.

The union officials embezzled as much as $5 million over eight years.

Tens of thousands of dollars were spent on artwork, several large-screen plasma televisions, furs, china and crockery sets, electronic equipment and wigs, in addition to more than $500,000 for custom-made clothing, $57,000 for a sterling-silver flatware set, $100,000 for Washington Redskins and Washington Wizards season tickets, $4,690 for limousine service to and from FedEx Field in Landover, $50,000 in personal catering charges and $40,000 in personal dental expenses.

Bullock is scheduled to be resentenced on Sept. 25, and her attorneys have until Sept. 6 to submit a memo of their own recommending a sentence to Judge Leon.

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