Saturday, June 30, 2012

Medrano gets place in Chicago political corruption realm – a repeat offender

MEDRANO: An encore?
I realize that Ambrosio Medrano is innocent until proven otherwise by federal prosecutors.

Yet I also realize that the operations of the Justice Department can be heavy-handed, and they have a way of hitting people with the weight of the world in those cases where the U.S. government decides it wants to go after an individual.

SO THE FORMER Chicago alderman is in a mess of trouble, and is likely to wind up doing some serious prison time – since very few of the Chicago political people who get indicted on corruption charges wind up being able to get themselves acquitted.

Yet Medrano has truly become a unique character in Chicago political history. He’s a guy who’s already been through the process.

He lost his seat as an alderman nearly two decades ago – prosecutors claim he took $31,000 in bribes back in the days of Operation Silver Shovel; the 1990s investigation when the feds were looking at corruption at City Hall and found a lot of it within Streets and Sanitation.

Specifically, prosecutors claim his taking of rewards after providing ghost-payroller jobs for two people on the City Council’s housing committee amounted to criminal behavior.

IN ALL HONESTLY, none of this is particularly noteworthy. It’s old trivia.

There have been many government officials who have done something that federal prosecutors thought was improper. They wound up going to prison. They did their time.

Then, they come back and wind up living their lives trying to work outside of government. In many cases, they try to keep a low profile. The average person forgets them.
Will the son have to maintain low profile too?

The average political geek remembers the name, but has no clue what became of them (personally, I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head what became of people like Miriam Santos or Larry Bloom, and I doubt I’m the exception).

UNTIL THURSDAY, IT seemed that Medrano would experience the same fate – even though he eventually wound up on the staff of now-former Cook County Commissioner Joseph M. Moreno and back in 2003 and 2007 had the gall to try to run for a seat on the City Council. Medrano wound up in one of those government posts that isn’t elected, doesn’t draw a lot of public attention, but puts one in a position to influence government activity if one has any brains and ambition.

So when the U.S. Attorney’s office (head prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s final day before leaving is Friday, so this is his “last hurrah”) investigated Moreno’s behavior in office, it meant that Medrano got caught up with it too.

Prosecutors say that Moreno took $5,000 related to behavior at a waste transfer station in suburban Cicero. Those same prosecutors say Medrano offered a bribe while working for Moreno to a person who turned out to be an undercover informant.

Which means that Medrano is that rarest of defendants in political corruption cases – a repeat offender! And one whose son with political aspirations of his own is going to have to live that down – since he’s a “junior.”

I HAVE NO doubt that upon conviction (if he’s unable to beat the rap), he’ll receive as close to the maximum sentence in prison as is humanly possible. It won’t be anything like the 21 months he did previously at the minimum-security facility in Oxford, Wis.

He may well get that Terre Haute, Ind., experience like George Ryan – only in the maximum-security portion of the facility rather than the minimum-security work camp like the former governor.

I couldn’t help but note that Medrano was denied the chance to post bail, with prosecutors arguing that he was most definitely a flight risk. Perhaps they think he’ll be in Cancun or Mexico City within days if he were allowed to walk out of the Federal Building.

It seems that Medrano is going to become the face of the unrepentant Chicago politician. He just never learns from his mistakes.


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