Saturday, June 15, 2019

Will judge give Cochran a ‘get out of jail, free’ card in corruption case?

It will be intriguing to see just how a federal judge rules with regards to former 20th Ward Alderman Willie Cochran, whom federal prosecutors say used funds meant for ward activities instead for personal use.
COCHRAN: Doesn't want to go to prison

Cochran has entered a “guilty” plea, and as expected is hoping his judge will be sympathetic. Although some may say “delusional” would be a more accurate descriptive term.

FOR COCHRAN IS the alderman who earlier this year sent his attorney a written legal brief in which he argued that prison time would be totally inappropriate. But because he apparently got confused in sending out e-mail, a copy was sent to the U.S. Probation Office.

For as Cochran stated, his actions would constitute political corruption. And history shows us that threats of incarceration haven’t done a thing discourage Chicago aldermen (or elected officials from anywhere, actually) from doing things that federal prosecutors believe do not serve the public good.

How else to explain the dozens of former aldermen who wound up ending their time in public service with a prison stint.

Cochran argued that a period of home confinement (say, six months or so) would be a more appropriate punishment for the alderman who solicited donations to provide financial support for a back-to-school picnic, a senior citizen event for Valentine’s Day and other holiday-type events.

PROSECUTORS, HOWEVER, SAY that Cochran took the contributions, then used the money for personal expenses.

Which is why they whacked him with a criminal indictment, resulting in Cochran entering a “guilty” plea back in March. No trial. A chance at a lesser sentence.
Sometimes, it seems these people don't understand the law
Except that Cochran seems to want us to think he didn’t do it – even though he submitted the guilty plea. It’s as though he doesn’t realize the significance of what it means to plead guilty. He’s going to have to take some sort of a legal blow when he comes up for sentencing on June 24.

Which is why the Chicago Sun-Times has reported this week that federal prosecutors are now demanding that Cochran get prison time.

THEY WANT HIM to get something along the lines of an 18-month prison sentence, which they say is close to the maximum sentence he could get. While admitting that if Cochran keeps trying a legal strategy along the lines of “I’m guilty, but I didn’t do it,” they’ll go for the max.

As in two full years of prison time. Which would put Cochran in line with the many other aldermen who wound up having to answer to the title of “inmate,” rather than “counselor.”

It would seem that Cochran has a tenuous grasp of what the law says, and means.

Which shouldn’t be surprising. Because one of the things that has often amazed me through all the years I have written about governing and the making of public policy is just how little officials truly comprehend legal issues.

EVEN THOUGH MANY of them are law school graduates and are certified to practice law, it would seem what they truly grasp are the mechanizations of politics. Which often differs greatly from what prosecutors will accept as legitimate.
These people want to criminalize govt.

Hence, the idea that some 30-plus aldermen ended up as criminals. That’s going back to 1973 – I’m sure the tally would be higher if you pushed the timeline back.

Although then again, legal interpretations used to be looser so that actions we’d now claim are criminal would have been regarded as legitimate, way back when.

Which may well be why federal prosecutors said they plan to enter into evidence the oaths of office that Cochran took when he became an alderman – perhaps they think elected officials need a reminder that the old cliché “talk is cheap” doesn’t apply, and that there’s a meaning to all the gibberish about “upholding” the federal and state constitutions.


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