The entire universe is pretty much aware that when it comes to Chicago, there is a distance between political reason and justice. This morning after awaking from a wonderful relaxing Obama free holiday weekend, I open the Chicago Tribune to find this story about former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich:
Anti-corruption law: Supreme Court decision could derail ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s trial
Justices are asked to scale back or strike down prosecutors’ key tool for public corruption cases
November 30, 2009
By David G. Savage
WASHINGTON — The nation’s most potent law against public corruption could be in danger of being scaled back or struck down by the Supreme Court, threatening a series of high-profile cases, including those of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Washington lobbyists who worked for Jack Abramoff and several jailed corporate chiefs.At issue in court arguments in early December is a ban on “honest-services fraud,” often used against public officials who accept money, free tickets or well-paying jobs for their spouses and children in cases where bribery cannot be proved.”In Chicago, this was our go-to statute. Every major public corruption case in the last 10 years relied heavily on an honest-services charge,” said Patrick Collins, formerly a top anti-corruption prosecutor for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago. These cases include the conviction of former Gov. George Ryan.The trial of Blagojevich is set to begin in June, but Collins said it could be derailed by a high court decision. “If the court were to gut the statute, the prosecution would have to think long and hard about how to restructure the case. (Honest-services fraud) is the core operating theory of the case,” he said.In Washington, anti-corruption activists fear the court’s ruling could take away from prosecutors their best tool for combating the culture of gift giving and cozy deals between lobbyists and members of Congress and their staffs.”It would undercut public corruption cases across the board,” if the court struck down the law against honest-services fraud, said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Opponents say honest-services fraud is vague and ill-defined. It fails to spell out, for example, the point when a friendship turns into a criminal scheme. Julian Solotorovsky, another former federal prosecutor in Chicago, said the court should strike down the law and force Congress to spell out what is a crime. “There is no vaguer statute on the books than this one,” he said. “I’m surprised it’s taken 21 years to get this before the Supreme Court.”
In New York, the former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno is on trial in an honest-services fraud case for allegedly obtaining $3.2 million in private consulting fees from clients who had business before the legislature. His fate is before the jury.
Last month, a jury in Washington was told Abramoff’s lobbying operation spent more than $5 million between 2000 and 2005 doling out free tickets to sporting events and concerts for members of Congress and their staffs. But the jury could not reach a verdict on a series of honest-services fraud charges against Kevin Ring, a former congressional staffer who worked for Abramoff. The judge put off a retrial until the Supreme Court rules on the law.
In recent decades the Supreme Court has made prosecuting public officials more difficult.
My reaction to this story while seemingly defeatist, should be understandable when one takes into consideration where I live. Blago will get off free as a bird. If corrupt Illinois politicians actually went to and stayed in jail, would we really have corrupt Illinois politicians???
I have a very clear idea that Illinois is a lost cause. The citizens of the “Land of Lincoln” will continue to elect corrupt Democratic politicians such as Blago, Daley, Todd “sales tax 10.25%” Stroger, and others I will not mention. Despite Stroger’s veto of the tax roll back, he remains on the Democratic primary ballot for Cook County Board President. His challenger Cook County Clerk, Dorothy Brown, withdrew from the race after withdrawing her challenge to signatures on Stroger’s nominating petitions. Interestingly, the only “corrupt” Illinois politician that has remained in jail is former Gov. George Ryan who is a Republican. Gee, I wonder what that is all about?
Autographed Letter Signed,