Friday, October 23, 2015

Smith, Jackson add to list of local pols who do incarceration routine

By the time you read this Friday, Derrick Smith will likely be en route to a federal correctional center where he will serve the next few months as punishment for the label he’ll have to bear for the rest of his life – a corrupt Chicago politician.

SMITH: Countdown begins Friday
Smith was the Illinois House member from the West Side whom the Legislature tried to kick out of its ranks – only to have the voters send him back to the Statehouse scene until said time that the U.S. Attorney’s office got around to indicting him.

HE EVENTUALLY WAS found guilty, sentenced to five months in prison, then engaged in a series of maneuvers meant to delay having to serve the sentence.

Those maneuvers extended into this week, when U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman rejected them on the grounds she had no faith that his legal appeal of his conviction would succeed.

Meaning he now has to begin serving his time within the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. If he doesn’t report by Friday, he becomes a federal fugitive – which might sound like an enticing story to write.

Although I suspect that if Smith were to become a political fugitive, he’d become even more nondescript than he was as an elected official.

SMITH WAS LITERALLY a legislator for so short a period of time and accomplished so little that the only reason he will be remembered is for the story of how he regained his political post even after he was kicked out of office.

Nobody is going to take up the cause of Derrick Smith and claim that he should do anything other than serve his five months of prison time – which really is a short stint.

He could literally be free (having paid his debt to society, to use the tacky old cliché) some time around St. Patrick’s Day.

JACKSON: 362 more days to go
Although he will get the experience of serving a Thanksgiving Day, Christmas holiday and Valentines’ Day within the prison environment. Which isn’t something I would want to see anyone have to endure. Even if it is just a minimum-security environment.

SMITH GETS TO be just another among the list of our local political people who managed to cross over the line and wind up with a criminal record. While speculating if that $7,000 he took from what turned out to be an undercover FBI agent was worth the ordeal he’ll now have to go through.

As it turns out, the same day that Coleman rejected Smith’s request to stay out of prison was the same day that former 7th Ward alderman Sandi Jackson reported to the minimum-security facility for women in West Virginia to begin serving her one-year sentence.

Her offense? She signed the tax returns that one-time Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., used to try to justify the legality of the campaign contribution spending he did for personal items.

Which federal prosecutors said made her an accomplice to the Congressman’s actions – which amounted to using those funds to buy tacky items such as Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves and personal items that once belonged to singer Michael Jackson.

THESE AREN’T EXACTLY Public Enemies Number One. But the congressman served his prison time and is now back with the kids, raising them while their mother serves her prison time. Which in a court quirk will not include any time off for good behavior.

She’ll do a full year of time, meaning she’ll get to return to Chicago just before Halloween of 2016.

Sandi Jackson will do her time at Alderson, which as one of the few federal facilities for women has quite an “alumni” list – Martha Stewart did her prison time there when federal officials went after her business operations.

HOLIDAY: Prison instead of treatment
And if you go back a few decades, singer Billie Holiday also was an inmate back when her heroin addiction (and most likely her race) caused authorities to treat her as a criminal rather than someone who needed treatment – and the lady really did sing the blues for a stretch!


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