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Tag: Chicago

Money Wasted in Cook County Police Program, Lawmakers Call for FBI Probe

Cook County Board Pres. Toni Preckwinkle

 
 By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Would you believe that federal money was wasted in Illinois’ Cook County, home of the city of Chicago?

A report by the Department of Homeland Security claims that millions of dollars may have been wasted on a troubled $44 million county program that put faulty cameras in police cars, reports the Chicago Tribune.

U.S. Sen.  Mark Kirk and and U.S. Rep Michael Quigley scheduled a press conference for later on Monday calling the FBI to investigate “potential criminal misuse of federal funds” on “equipment that does not perform as intended,” according to the Tribune.

Cook County officials ended “Project Shield” in June after a review by the County Board President Toni Preckwinkle found an “ill-conceived, poorly designed and badly executed program that put the lives of emergency responders in danger.” The $65,000 cameras the county had purchased for police not only didn’t work, according to the Tribune, but also obstructed the air bags in police cars, said Michael Masters, director of the county’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

To read more click here.

Blago’s Biggest Crime: He Thought He Was Smarter Than All of Us

Blagojevich/file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ok, so I wouldn’t have given ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich 14 years in prison for his infinite arrogance and his corrupt ways. Ten or 12 would have sufficed.

That being said, I can’t say he didn’t deserve getting the toughest sentence of any crooked Illinois governor. He never stopped yapping and denying and lying. He went on Letterman and the View and the Daily Show and came up with more trash than a mobbed-up sanitation firm.

The worst part about it all is that he assumed we were all dumber than him.

It was obvious the sentencing Judge James Zagel wasn’t dumber than Blago. And it was easy to see from press reports from the two trials that the judge didn’t appreciate his shenanigans.

In Blago’s first trial, the prosecution screwed up. It made the case far too complicated for the jury. The jury came back with one conviction out of 24 counts. Blago and his attorneys had sense of enough not to put Blago on the stand.

But in the second trial, prosecutors convicted Blago on 17 of 20 counts. Blago took the stand — the arrogant guy that he is — hoping to dupe the jury. That didn’t work.

Blago turns 55 on Dec. 10. He’s set to report to prison in February. He’ll be gone a long long time.

I feel sorry for him. Even though he has a law degree and served in Congress and was governor, he wasn’t a very smart guy.

And the dumbest thing he did was assume he was a smart guy — smarter than all the rest of us.

OUCH! Judge Hammers Blago With 14 Year Sentence

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com
A federal judge in Chicago on Wednesday socked Rod Blagojevich, the ever-chatty ex-Illinois Governor, with a 14-year prison term, just one year short of the minimum the prosecution had recommended, according to the Chicago Tribune. He is now scheduled to report to prison Feb. 16.
 

“The vast majority of facts in this case were not disputed,” Judge James Zagel said at sentencing, according to Chicago News Cooperative reporter Idalmy Carrera. “It’s very difficult to dispute what was on the recordings.”

The prosecution in court papers had asked the judge to sentence Blago to 15 to 20 years.

But during the sentencing hearing, which began on Tuesday, the  defense tried to play up the good things Blagojevich had done as governor, and his role as a responsible father. “Whatever good things you did for people as governor…I am more concerned with the occasions where you used your power only to do good for yourself,” Judge Zagel said to him before sentencing.

A crowd of 50 or so had gathered outside the courtroom this morning for the second day of sentencing as Blagojevich and his wife Patti entered the courtroom holding hands, tweeted Chicago Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney. Blagojevich appeared to be more open to the press, joking with some reporters.

Blagojevich listened, shaking his head as the prosecution described him as manipulative, calling his corruption “perverse and unbound.” The former governor then acknowledged and apologized profusely for his crimes–acts Zagel later said came too late, describing the pain of explaining his guilty verdict to his daughters.

It had been clear by the end of yesterday’s court session, the Chicago Tribune reported, that the sentence would be stiff and the defense had given up the idea of avoiding prison altogether.

“I have nobody to blame but myself,” Blagojevich said in his final statements, then asked Judge Zagel for mercy before the court went to recess and the sentence was read.

U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald issued a statement saying:

“Blagojevich betrayed the trust and faith that Illinois voters placed in him, feeding great public frustration, cynicism and disengagement among citizens. People have the right to expect that their elected leaders will honor the oath they swear to, and this sentence shows that the justice system will stand up to protect their expectations.”

Robert D. Grant, head of the Chicago FBI added: “The sentence handed down today represents a repayment of the debt that Blagojevich owes to the people of Illinois. While promising an open and honest administration, in reality, the former governor oversaw a comprehensive assault on the public’s trust.”

The sentence was by far the harshest any crooked Illinois governor had been given. And it topped by one year the 13-year sentence a fed judge in Alexandria, Va. had given ex-New Orleans Congressman William Jefferson was given in 2008 after being convicted on public corruption charges.  Jefferson remains free pending an appeal.

Judge Zagel: Blago Set and Sought Senate Seat Price

Ex-Gov on NBC's Celebrity Apprentice

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday faced the first of two days of hearings for his sentencing on public corruption charges.

The usually chatty ex-governor had walked quietly out of his home earlier in the morning and into the courtroom via a passage blocked off to the media he once revelled in, a Chicago Tribune blog reported.  He declined to comment to the media.

Before the trial began Blagojevich bent over to kiss his wife Patti, saying “I love you.”

The defense argued Blagojevich did not gain any money from the allegations, while the prosecution pointed to “bountiful” evidence of what Blagojevich expected to gain.

Of the $1.5 million Blagojevich sought for the senate seat, Judge James Zagel said “”It was a price he put on it. The price he expected to receive,” tweeted Chicago Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney.

Blagojevich, arrested in December of 2008, was convicted of 1 of 24 counts — lying to an FBI agent — in his first trial. The second proved far more fruitful for the prosecution, which convicted him on 17 of 20 counts, including his famous attempt to sell or trade Barack Obama’s Senate seat for his own benefit.

During the feds probe of Blago, the FBI caught his now-famous line on tape: “I’ve got this thing, and it’s [expletive] golden,” he said of the Senate seat. Since his arrest state lawmakers approved a series of campaign finance reforms and transparency laws.

Before and during the trial Blagojevich repeatedly proclaimed his innocence in the national media, appearing regularly on news and talk shows, including The View. Many speculated early on that the media campaign could hurt him at sentencing.

“Throughout, on his television appearances, he showed a failure to accept responsibility for his actions. He maintained his innocence and seemed to be willing to do anything to continue maintaining that,” Rodger Heaton, a former U.S. Attorney for Central Illinois, previously told ticklethewire.com. “I think that will be one factor.”

Blagojevich served as a state legislator in both Washington and the Illinois capital of Springfield. He got his start in Chicago with the help of longtime city alderman Richard Mell, a powerful Democratic politician on the city’s Northwest Side. He was elected governor of Illinois in 2002 and impeached on January 9, 2009. He was banned in a separate vote from ever holding public office in the state of Illinois in the future.

Column: Prosecutors May Be Overreaching in Recommending 15-20 Years for Blago

 

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

In political corruption cases, how much prison time is enough?

Fed prosecutors in the case of Rod Blagojevich — the world’s most talkative ex-governor — are recommending that he get 15 to 20 years at sentencing, which is set for Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Yes, Blagojevich was a crook with a stupid chip implanted somewhere in that brain of his underneath that helmet-head of hair. But I think a 15 to 20 year sentence is excessive.

What’s the point of piling on?

Blago, who turns 55 on Dec. 10, four days after sentencing, would be 75 by the time he got released from prison if he were to be sentenced to 20 years. If he gets 10 years, he’ll be 65 by the time he goes free.  It’s not as if, when he gets out, the public will be in danger.

A prison term in this case is supposed to provide sufficient punishment and act as a deterrent to other crooked-leaning pols.

I think 10 to 12 years, as a Chicago Sun-Times writer Mark Brown suggests, does the trick.

A sentence of 10-12 is enough to discourage some — certainly not all — crooked politicians from committing crimes.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

 

Blago Fundraiser Gets 10 1/2 Years for Extorting Millions

By Danny Fenster
ticklethwire.com

A top fundraiser and advisor to ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich got handed a stiff sentence Tuesday in Chicago federal court for extorting millions of dollars in exchange for regulatory approval or business.

Fundraiser  Antoin “Tony” Rezko was sentenced to 10 1/2 years in prison — a sentence that prompted Rezko’s daughter to burst into tears, reports the Chicago Tribune. Judge Amy St. Eve told Rezko his “selfish and corrupt actions” have threatened people’s trust in government.

The tough sentence could be the preview as to what’s to come next month when none other than Blagojevich himself is sentenced.

Rezko has been in prison since his 2008 conviction, but the sentencing was delayed because federal prosecutors thought he may have needed to be called a witness at other key trials related to the probe of the Blagojevich administration, the Tribune reported.

US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called the sentence “a wake-up call.”

“I don’t know how many times we’ve had sentences of 10 1/2 years” in public corruption cases, Fitzgerald said, according to the Tribune.

Which raises a question. As ticklethewire.com reported previously, some see the upcoming Blagojevich sentencing as a chance for Illinois to send a very strong, very pubic message against widespread corruption in local and state government. Could this be the stern warning, the “wake up call” that was needed? Would that mean a lighter sentence for Blagojevich? Or is this only the beginning of an overdue crackdown?

Blagojevich conducted an extensive media campaign covered by the national press before his guilty conviction. While most Chicagoans know the name Tony Rezko, he does not have the national profile that Rod Blagojevich does. A stiff Blago sentencing would surely send a stronger, or at least louder, message.

Only time will tell. Balgojevich’s sentencing is set for December.

To read more click here.

20 Charged in Chicago-Mexico Drug Network, Ties to Zetas Drug Cartel

The logo of the Los Zetas Cartel/baltimore city paper

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The tentacles of the Mexican cartels can be found throughout the U.S.

The latest: 20 defendants — five of them suspected members of a Chicago cell of the violent Zetas Mexican drug cartel — were charged in major drug indictment in Chicago following a joint FBI-DEA investigation, Chicago’s US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s office announced Wednesday.

The investigation resulted in the seizure of more than $12.4 million in cash and about 250 kilograms or more than 500 pounds of cocaine during 2010 in the Chicago area.

Arrests were made on Tuesday in Chicago and Laredo, Tex. Along with the Tuesday arrests, an additional $480,000 in cash and two kilograms of heroin were also seized.

“The extensive cash seizures made during the course of this investigation illustrates how lucrative the illicit drug trade can be,” said Robert D. Grant, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Chicago Office in a statement. “Combined with the apparent presence of the Zetas in the Chicago area, the charges announced today should serve as a wake-up call to law enforcement throughout the state.”

Five of the defendants in the case remain at large.

 

 

Prosecutor’s Nightmare: Chicago Fed Juror Failed to Disclose Felony Convictions

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

And now stay tuned for a federal prosecutorial nightmare.

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that “court officials acknowledged Thursday that information revealed by the Tribune appears to show that a member of the federal jury that convicted Springfield power broker William Cellini concealed two felony convictions.”

Generally, a convicted felon cannot serve on a jury. Cellini was convicted of shaking down an Oscar-winning producer in a case that stemmed from the Rod Blagojevich investigation.

The Tribune reported that attorneys for Cellini may use this latest bombshell to overturn last week’s verdict.

The Trib reported, citing Cook County court records,that the jury has a felony conviction for crack-cocaine possession and a felony conviction for aggravated driving under the influence without a driver’s license.

“I consider this very important information that I was not aware of,” defense attorney Webb told the Trib. “I don’t know the facts here, but based on what the Tribune has reported to me, we are looking into the matter to determine if we have a basis to file a motion for a mistrial because a juror may have been allowed to serve on this jury who was legally disqualified from jury service.”

The Trib reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined comment.

To read more click here.