Corrupt ex-DPS principal loses federal appeal
A former Detroit principal convicted in a widespread corruption scandal lost her appeal Tuesday and will continue serving a two-year federal prison sentence.
A lower court judge correctly concluded that evidence of how Josette Buendia spent kickbacks from a school vendor supposedly on school expenses was irrelevant, according to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
A three-judge appeals panel also rejected Buendia’s challenge of evidentiary rulings, saying various challenges did not warrant overruling U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.
Buendia, 52, of Garden City, was convicted by a federal jury in December 2016 of federal program bribery in a $2.7 million kickback scheme in connection with Detroit Public Schools vendor Norman Shy and 12 other district officials. The former Bennett Elementary School principal was accused of pocketing more than $40,000 in bribes and kickbacks and spending some of the money on massages.
Buendia’s lawyer told the jury her client was a victim of DPS’ broken system and she used the money from Shy for her students and teachers.
“. . . regardless of how Buendia might have eventually spent the kickback money, she ‘corruptly solicited’ it because, by awarding contracts to Shy in exchange for kickbacks, she subverted the normal bidding process in a manner inconsistent with her duty to obtain goods and services for her school at the best value,” the panel wrote.
Buendia is serving the sentence at a federal prison in Alderson, West Virginia.
The prison is known as “Camp Cupcake” because of its low security, mountainous setting and perks, including microwave ovens, curling irons and cosmetology areas where inmate-to-inmate pedicures and manicures are allowed. Former Detroit Councilwoman Monica Conyers and TV personality Martha Stewart served time at the prison.
Buendia is scheduled to be released in June 2019.