- The Washington Times - Monday, June 5, 2006

The former treasurer of the Washington Teachers Union yesterday was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his role in the pilfering of millions of dollars in teachers’ dues.

James O. Baxter also was ordered to pay $4.2 million in restitution. He is to report to prison Aug. 8.

Baxter learned of his sentence two weeks after former union official Gwendolyn M. Hemphill received an 11-year sentence in the embezzlement scandal.

The union’s former president, Barbara A. Bullock, took a plea deal and testified against Hemphill and Baxter. Bullock is serving nine years in prison.

Hemphill and Baxter were convicted Aug. 31 of 23 counts each that included embezzlement, money laundering, conspiracy and wire fraud.

A third trial defendant, James A. Goosby, who provided accounting services for the union during late 2001 and part of 2002, was acquitted.

Prosecutors had sought a 20-year sentence for Baxter, saying in a sentencing memo that he “continued his theft even when the union literally had no money left to steal.”

“The breadth and depth of the fraud defendant Baxter perpetrated against a union of public schoolteachers, all while its elected official, is scandalous,” prosecutors stated in court documents.

Baxter’s attorneys blamed the embezzlement on Bullock.

A defense sentencing memo said Baxter sought to put a $5,000 monthly cap on the union’s American Express card.

Baxter attorney Elmer D. Ellis argued that Bullock removed the cap and “embarked on a pathological and unreasonably foreseen spending spree,” court papers said.

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

Along with tens of thousands of dollars in artwork, electronic equipment and wigs, the union officials spent more than $500,000 on 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 Land-over, $50,000 in personal catering charges and $40,000 in personal dental expenses.

Hemphill is appealing her sentence. She has sought permission to travel to Johnstown, Pa., to visit a sick brother before she must report to prison July 22.

In addition, Hemphill’s attorneys have sought to have her remain free pending appeal, but Judge Richard J. Leon has said he is unlikely to grant the request.

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