Following the newscasts on Monday, I couldn’t help but wonder if Rod Blagojevich was watching as well. Because seeing the “return” of Betty Loren Maltese to the Chicago metropolitan area could have given him a clear vision of what his life could be like some day.
Maltese, the one-time president of the Town of Cicero, has suffered the fate that many people are eagerly hoping befalls the now-impeached and removed Illinois governor some day.
SHE WAS SENT to prison, which broke her mentally. She was hit with fines and demands for reimbursement so high ($8 million) that she seriously is in debt. Her employability these days is so limited that it is highly unlikely she will ever be out of debt no matter how long she lives.
She has no home, no income. In fact, she has no family around her – they all left the Cicero area after Betty was sent away to prison.
So bringing Maltese back to the Chicago area on Monday was really more about personal humiliation than anything else.
Maltese served more than six years in federal correctional centers outside of Illinois, but is now finishing her prison term living in half-way houses – which in theory are preparing her for re-entry into society. She had been staying in such facilities in the Las Vegas area (which is not far from her adopted daughter now living in Arizona).
BUT OFFICIALS GOT her shifted to Chicago to finish the four more months she still must stay in such a place, specifically at the Salvation Army facility on Ashland Avenue where many convicted corrupt pols wind up finishing their prison time.
Why do I think this was about personal humiliation?
I think it was all about subjecting her to that final “perp walk,” where she had to get out of a car and walk into the facility while television cameras preserved the moment for “eternity,” or at least the few seconds of airtime that it took to show the footage on the Monday night newscasts.
For the record, Betty had nothing to say. No last-minute confessions. No curses at a reporter whose microphone got a little too close to her face for comfort.
ALSO, FOR WHAT it’s worth, none of the overly made-up appearance that used to be the “trademark” of Maltese. She was downright subdued.
I expect she will keep her mouth shut for so long as she must be in the Chicago area, then will leave us for good once she no longer has the federal government watching her every move (she must do three years probation, once her prison term is officially complete).
If it reads like I’m giving you a lot of trivial details about Maltese’s return to Chicago, you’d be correct. Because there really isn’t much else to say or write about her.
She was found guilty back in the early part of the past decade of allegations that Cicero taxpayers were ripped off of $12 million-plus by an insurance company that overcharged for its services, with some of that excess money supposedly going to associates of “a certain Italian subculture” (which is how actor Vince Curatola’s Johnny “Sack” Sacramoni character once described organized crime in an episode of “The Sopranos”).
THERE’S NOTHING NEW here.
The thought that she has to repay this money (conditions of her probation is that she has to cough up at least 20 percent of every paycheck she receives in the future toward her restitution) also isn’t new.
In fact, about the only new aspect is the revelation that Maltese is NOT among the ranks of the 47 million uninsured U.S. residents. Cicero government must provide her with a health insurance policy for the rest of her life.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that current Cicero municipal officials are looking into altering the perk, but even they concede they can only change it for future officials – not Maltese.
SO AT LEAST Betty can afford to go to the doctor when she gets sick. That might very well be the highlight of her life, at this point.
I find it all interesting because, as I hinted earlier, I think Maltese is the prototype for what people want to happen to Blagojevich.
Perhaps it is because Maltese’ so-called crime involved elements of organized crime, but she gets to be the pariah of our local politics. Someday, she likely will be joined by Blagojevich.
Perhaps they will make a nice couple. They’d even be bipartisan examples of how government corruption can break someone (after all, Betty considered herself to be a good Republican).
NEITHER MALTESE NOR Blagojevich is going to get the Dan Rostenkowski treatment (guest lecturer at Northwestern Universtiy, senior fellow at Loyola U. of Chicago, Election Night commentator on local television newscasts), which – if he survives, he turns 76 on Feb. 24 – is the fate I ultimately expect to occur for former Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan.
I guess that’s the difference between being an “old school” pol like Rostenkowski or Ryan who can point to real accomplishments in their political careers that benefitted the public, and the younger pols who didn’t stick around long enough on the political scene to achieve something of lasting value.