* You’d think the world was coming to an end…
According to U.S. District Court Judge Milton I. Shadur, Former Chicago Alderman and judicial kingmaker Eddie Vrdolyak is not an insider.
And when Vrdolyak agreed to act as a “finder” for a crooked land deal in which he knew the fix was in and he would have to split that finder’s fee with a crooked school board member who would steer the sale to Vrdolyak’s client, that was not a “kickback,” Shadur said.
When the school board, because of the crooked board member, passed up a $15.5 million bid for its property and instead took the $15 million crooked bid, that did not represent a tangible, calculable loss to the school of $500,000, Shadur said.
After finding all of that, Judge Shadur then called Eddie Vrdolyak “a good man” and let him go free.
With no prison time, and not a penny in restitution to the school.
It was supposed to be the day of reckoning for former Chicago Ald. Edward Vrdolyak, the day he at last got sent to prison for an inside deal after what some say was a career built on them.
Instead, Chicago witnessed what seemed like another “Fast Eddie” moment.
If you didn’t know the federal judiciary in Chicago was considered to be on the square, if you didn’t know that Judge Milton Shadur had built a reputation of integrity over three decades on the bench, if you didn’t know both those things, then you might suspect the fix was in Thursday for the benefit of Edward R. Vrdolyak.
As it is, I guess we’ll have to come up with other explanations for Shadur’s almost indefensible decision to allow Fast Eddie to continue his charmed existence by walking out of the Dirksen Federal Building with no jail time — even if no other explanation but a fix will ring true to corruption-weary Chicagoans.
* But lots of people believed that the original indictment was a real stretch. Here’s the meat of the judge’s argument…
Shadur said he drew a line between Levine’s corruption and Vrdolyak’s role in the matter. He noted Vrdolyak had worked to bump up Smithfield’s initial offer of $9.5 million and that there seemed to be no concrete offers on the table that would have made any more money.
Shadur, who has a background in real estate law, said finder’s fees are a recognized part of such transactions and few real estate deals involve truly open bidding. […]
Shadur sometimes sparred with Assistant U.S. Atty. Christopher Niewoehner and cut him off as the prosecutor noted that Vrdolyak had connections to the powerful in Chicago.
“We do not sentence stick figures,” the judge said. “We do not sentence them because of what people might think about them.”
Shadur was right to cut off the prosecutor on that last point. And I’m pretty sure he’s right on the finder’s fee point.
* From the US Attorney…
“We strongly but respectfully disagree with the sentence of probation imposed on defendant Vrdolyak. As we argued in court, we believe a sentence of incarceration was appropriate for a defendant who schemed to share a $1.5 million fee with a corrupt insider involving the sale of a non-profit university’s valuable real estate asset.
“We will carefully consider appropriate options, including an appeal. We will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute people who corrupt public or private boards through kickbacks and insider-dealing.”
Do you think Fitzgerald should appeal this sentence?
* Another win for Fast Eddie
* Ex-Chicago pol Vrdolyak gets $50K fine, probation
* Former Alderman Vrdolyak Avoids Prison
* Judge’s ‘respect for the law and integrity are unquestioned’
* ‘Fast Eddie’ a disgrace and a hero