Saturday, August 4, 2012

Court quirks; is everybody broke?

When the federal government decides that its law enforcement types want to single you out, it is an expensive proposition.

Which is why I can’t help but see the truth in what was former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger’s initial reaction to learning that his former press spokesman and childhood friend now faces an indictment in U.S. District Court.

ACCORDING TO THE Chicago Sun-Times (but not the Chicago Tribune), the Stroger reaction was to say, “That’s too bad because he’ll have to spend money on lawyers.”

Some people are interpreting that comment as some sort of vacuous remark on the part of Stroger, the younger. While others are going out of their way to stretch out an interpretation that claims it is a virtual admission that he will probably have to spend money on lawyers someday.

I just see it as a truthful statement. It might well be the most honest thing that has come out of a political person’s mouth all week.

For 48-year-old Eugene Mullins is going to find his life turned upside down, now that he has to defend himself against a multi-count indictment along with other people.

IT IS LIKELY that all of them will wind up taking each other down – which is the big reason that federal prosecutors like to have trials with multiple defendants.

The confusion over who did what often makes jurors think that everybody did something wrong, so everybody goes down.

And if any of them had any money to begin with, it invariably gets eaten up by legal expenses and the cost of trying to avoid prison.

I still recall former state Treasurer Jerry Cosentino, who back in the 1990s had his own legal problems and wound up being found guilty. But he managed to avoid a prison term because of his advanced age (which is what William Cellini wishes for these days, but that’s a story for another day).

HE ALSO DIED broke. He lost his house. The only thing that prevented him from being homeless was that his daughter took him in during the final years of his life.

Mullins will soon find himself in a similar situation.

In fact, some already are in that situation even though their criminal proceedings have barely started.

For former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno and former alderman Ambrosio Medrano were in court this week on their own corruption charges.

BUT UNLIKE THE attorneys who seem to feed off of political people facing corruption charges, none of them are swarming around Moreno or Medrano.

Both of them appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Morton Denlow, entered their plea of “not guilty,” then formally said they can’t afford to hire legal representation.

They’re getting the federal equivalent of the public defender – who likely is swamped with so many other cases involving indigent defendants  that it is questionable how high a quality of a legal defense they’ll get.

I’m sure the attorneys who get assigned to these two will do the best they possibly can. But the key to comprehending our legal system at times (as evidenced by O.J. Simpson) is that money does talk!

OF COURSE, PERHAPS it is part of a legal strategy. The two face charges that basically say they enriched themselves with bribes. Yet both are now busted! How criminal could they be if they don’t have any money to show for it?

Particularly in the case of Medrano, who already has done a prison sentence for a previous government corruption case against him. He’s already unique in being a possible repeat offender.

Now, he’s an indigent government official. Medrano has definitely earned his place in the Chicago political history books.

All in all, all of these cases are a sad (as in pathetic, not tragic) saga. Crime, if it really did happen here, truly did not pay!


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