Thursday, September 24, 2009

Could Maltese, Blagojevich (“we didn’t do it”) be Illinois' perfect political couple?

This could be a new technique – those who are convicted of criminal offenses get out of prison and sue everybody they can think of for all the bad things that happened to them during their legal proceedings.

But then again, no one would ever have thought of Betty Loren Maltese as being someone who would follow the pack. If anyone was destined to make a public splash upon completing time in prison, it would be the one-time town president of Cicero.

MALTESE WAS THE heavily made-up beauty (in her own mind) who ran Cicero government – the political entity whose historic ties ran back to the late 1920s when Al Capone used the town for a few years to evade Chicago authorities who actually had the nerve to think they should try to do something to bring his criminal behavior to an end.

The point is that for decades, Cicero political officials have suffered from the perception that they were just a little too cozy with elements of organized crime.

In Maltese’s case, her late husband was a man who mob-watchers would contend was a low-level affiliate of the Chicago “outfit.”

In the end, Maltese suffered the same fate as many other people in her circles – the federal government came after her, prosecuted a case, got a conviction, and she received an eight-year prison term (much of which has been served in facilities in the southwestern U.S.).

THESE DAYS, MALTESE is no longer being kept in prison facilities. She is far enough along in her term that she is now living at a halfway house near Phoenix, where she theoretically is being given final preparation for the day when she is set free.

But Maltese, while she claims to have no interest in returning to Cicero or Illinois to live or work (she seems to be thinking “Las Vegas”), apparently isn’t letting go of the past.

She has a lawsuit that seeks a combined total of nearly $40 million from 27 different people – all of whom she claims did something to make her life miserable during the period when she was in the news on a daily basis because she was on trial in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

As she puts it in the lawsuit (for which she is serving as her own legal representation), my, “civil rights were deliberately and flagrantly hindered and severely abused.”

AT THE TIME of her incarceration, Maltese actually had an adopted daughter who wound up going to live with her sister while Betty was in prison. But now, Maltese thinks it was bad for her sister to have the child, even though most people would be grateful that a child remained within the family – rather than being sent off to a “foster home” of sorts.

So she’s suing her sister, claiming lies were told in order for her to get custody.

She’s also suing her one-time defense attorney for not including her physical presence at some of the court hearings. She claims he told her “I don’t need you there.”

Many people enjoy the idea of not having to show up for court, and it is common in criminal cases for instances where the attorneys for all sides get together to discuss the legal issues – in hopes of cutting through some of the procedure to try to achieve an actual result a lot sooner.

HER LAWSUIT ALSO names the U.S. attorney’s office that prosecuted her, the federal court system that tried her, the Bureau of Prisons that incarcerated her.

I wonder if she seriously considered including the quality of food at the prisons she was held at, since I heard reports throughout the years that Maltese lost so much weight while incarcerated because she couldn’t bring herself to eat the foodstuffs served to inmates – much of which technically includes nutrients needed to keep someone alive but was picked more for its low purchase cost than for its substance.

It seems like anyone who had the misfortune of coming into contact with Betty Loren Maltese during her years of legal travails now faces the likelihood of being named in her lawsuit.

It is very likely that Maltese will go to her grave someday (not that I’m wishing for that to happen sooner, rather than later) believing she was wrongfully convicted and incarcerated. Which is probably why we citizens of the Chicago metropolitan area are better off that Betty no longer wants to live among us.

HOW QUICKLY WOULD we become disgusted with her tales and her lawsuits and her likely future antics? She might actually make George Ryan look like a respectable, standup character by comparison.

If anything, she might very well be the Republican counterpart to Democrat Rod Blagojevich. They could both go around together claiming, “I didn’t do it.”

I understand that Maltese is contemplating her own book, partially as an attempt to explain her “story” to her adopted daughter – who was too young to understand what was happening to “mommy” while it was happening, but may someday get to see the cold hard language of the federal indictments and other legal documents related to her case.

In which case, we could take Maltese’s book and put it alongside copies of “The Governor” and try to figure out which one gives more political-style “bull” for the buck.


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