Trial begins for former Benton Harbor superintendent

Leonard Seawood// WSBT 22

Embezzlement and obtaining money under false pretenses. A trial started for Benton Harbor's former school superintendent Tuesday.

Leonard Seawood faces those charges in a trial that could last all week.

The court spent all morning narrowing a 45 person pool into just 12 jurors.

By 2 p.m. the defense and prosecution were presenting opening arguments.

The prosecution called Seawood a thief but his attorneys say that's just not true.

Matt Borgula emphasized Seawood's education, character and desire to give back to his hometown.

He says Benton Harbor was operating at a deficit and Seawood voluntarily took a pay cut.

The prosecution says Seawood was entitled to 25 vacation days in his contract. If he didn't use them, he could sell back five.

Prosecutor Amy Byrd says Seawood took advantage of the school board's trust in him and sold back many more days than that.

The amount he received for those days totaled $40,000.

"The first time he submitted a request for 50 days. If it wasn't criminal, you could almost admire the audacity that took, for 50 days. By the way that's over $26,000,” said Byrd.

Borgula says the board wouldn't let his client take the 25 vacation days included in his contract. He says Seawood was just asking for what he'd earned.

"A thief is someone who lies, tricks, is deceitful, misleads and steal something from someone else. Not someone who asks for permission and the board isn't smart enough to figure out whether they're supposed it and when they talked about it they didn't know,” said Borgula.

The trial resumes Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.

Read through highlights from today's trial from WSBT 22's Katlin Connin:

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