BENTON HARBOR — The Michigan Court of Appeals last week affirmed the conviction and sentence of former Benton Harbor school Superintendent Leonard Seawood.
Seawood was found guilty of embezzlement by a Berrien County jury on Dec. 15, 2017, for receiving $46,121 for 110 unused vacation days. His contract allowed for 25 vacation days a year, with him being allowed to sell back to the school district up to five days a year for cash.
He was superintendent for five years – from 2010 to April 30, 2015, when school board trustees put him on paid administrative leave. He resigned in October 2015. As part of his separation agreement, the school district paid him $80,000.
Seawood was sentenced in January 2018 to 90 days in jail and five years’ probation. Berrien County Trial Court Judge Donna Howard denied his request to stay out of jail while his appeal was being heard, saying the Benton Harbor community needed closure.
According to documents from the appeals court, Seawood argued that the school district didn’t suffer an actual loss because he worked the vacation days he got paid for. But the trial court said that was irrelevant because “justification was not a defense to false pretenses.”
Seawood was found guilty of one count of embezzlement $20,000 to $50,000, one count of obtaining money by false pretense $20,000 to $50,000, and three counts of obtaining money by false pretenses $1,000 to $20,000. Those felonies are punishable by up to 10, 15 and five years, respectively.
But because Seawood had a clean background, the guidelines for his sentence came in at a minimum of zero to 17 months.