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Blagojevich lawyer lays out appeal reasoning - Rezko won’t serve more time - A rebuke may be in order

Thursday, Dec 22, 2011

* Chicago criminal defense attorney Len Goodman, who is Lester Crown’s nephew, will be handling Rod Blagojevich’s appeal. Here’s what he told Crain’s about the case as he sees it now, although he admitted that he isn’t totally up to speed

“The main issue at trial was — what was (Mr. Blagojevich’s) intent? This is a case about campaign contributions; he was not accused of stuffing his own pockets the way some other politicians do.

“The governor was part of a system in Illinois which required him to raise tens of millions of dollars to stay in office and which encouraged him to seek campaign contributions from persons who received business and benefits from the state. In that type of case, the defendant has to be given a full opportunity to present evidence of his intent, or what was in his head,” Mr. Goodman said in an email.

“That is what I am going to be looking at. Did the jury hear both sides of the story? Did they get a full picture? Or did they hear mostly just the evidence that the government wanted them to hear?”

Overturning all 18 guilty counts would be highly unusual, to say the least. What do you think of Goodman’s arguments?

* Meanwhile

Convicted political fundraiser and businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko will not spend any extra time in federal prison for a business fraud scheme after agreeing not to appeal his conviction in the case — or his conviction in a wider-ranging political corruption case.

U.S. District Judge James P. Zagel sentenced Rezko Thursday to 7½ years on charges he schemed to get a fraudulent loan to prop up his Papa John’s Pizza franchises in Illinois and Michigan.

But Zagel agreed to make the sentence concurrent with a 10½-year prison term Rezko received last month for corrupting state boards and state government under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

That means every day Rezko spends in prison will count toward both sentences.

That seems reasonable.

* And some lawyers are just willing to say anything, I suppose

A Chicago man pleaded innocent Wednesday in the October murder of 14-year-old Kelli O’Laughlin in her Indian Head Park home. […]

O’Laughlin’s body was found Oct. 27 in her home. She had been stabbed in her neck, back and chest.

She had returned home from Lyons Township High School and surprised Wilson, prosecutors have said. After killing her, Wilson took her phone, they said, and used it to send taunting text messages to her mother.

After the hearing at the county courthouse in Bridgeview Wednesday, [Defense attorney John Paul Carroll] wondered whether the reason why he hasn’t received any case reports he subpoenaed on Dec. 5 from Indian Head Park Police and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office is because his client is black. [Emphasis added.]

I have no idea whether he’s right, but I kinda doubt it because he didn’t mention the race angle in front of the judge. Either way, let’s all hope this lawyer doesn’t try to turn the trial into a circus.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

AG Madigan efforts prompt record payout by racist bank

Thursday, Dec 22, 2011

* Some folks out there have been trying to convince Americans that institutional racism is a thing of the distant past. Well, tell that to the folks who got mortgages through Countrywide

The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the largest residential fair-lending settlement in history, saying that Bank of America had agreed to pay $335 million to settle allegations that its Countrywide Financial unit discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers during the housing boom.

A department investigation concluded that Countrywide loan officers and brokers charged higher fees and rates to more than 200,000 minority borrowers across the country than to white borrowers who posed the same credit risk. Countrywide also steered more than 10,000 minority borrowers into costly subprime mortgages when white borrowers with similar credit profiles received regular loans, it found.

* Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan deserves lots of credit for this settlement. Madigan filed suit last year against Bank of America, which had earlier bought Countrywide. Her suit was settled as part of the record-breaking deal

The Illinois lawsuit followed years of investigation into Countrywide’s lending practices.

Madigan issued a subpoena to Countrywide in March 2008. That followed a 2007 study by the Chicago Reporter of federally collected mortgage-lending data for the Chicago area. The study found that in 2006, Countrywide Financial Corp. sold higher-cost loans to 50.9 percent of its African-American borrowers and 33.8 percent of its Latino borrowers, while 19.5 percent of the company’s white borrowers received high-cost loans.

* The result for Illinoisans who were essentially robbed of their money

Either the borrowers were charged higher fees associated with obtaining a mortgage or they were steered into costlier, riskier subprime mortgages when they would have qualified for lower-cost, prime mortgages, Madigan said.

In the first case, Illinois borrowers could be eligible for a settlement ranging from several hundred dollars to more than $1,000, she said. In the second, borrowers qualifying for a settlement could receive about $10,000, she said.

Money can compensate, but shouldn’t somebody go to jail over this? I mean, you rob a bank and you’ll spend years in prison. But when a financial conglomerate robs you it throws money around and walks away.

Most banks, like the one I use, are actually doing what they’re supposed to be doing and following the law and helping build the economy. But some of these crooked banksters should be forced to do more than write a big check and deny they did anything wrong

The settlement agreement was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. It calls for no punitive damages, Madigan said. In the agreement, the defendants deny claims of discrimination.

* Other business-related news…

* Illinois: The land of leavin’?

* Editorial: Illinois needs new tack on biz breaks

* Jerry Roper: Illinois deserves an A for economic-development assistance

* Lawsuit seeks to block Children’s heliport

* Chicago-based investment group purchases Sun-Times Media

* New Sun-Times will ramp up specialized content online

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards - Best Commenter

Thursday, Dec 22, 2011

* I can’t believe that I forgot this category. Lots of ratings to do today, I’m afraid. Sorry to overload you. But this one has to be voted on as well because it’s the most important to the blog…

* The Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Commenter

Make sure to explain your nomination as much as possible. I’ll announce all winners from both of today’s posts sometime tomorrow.

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      

Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards - Lobsters

Thursday, Dec 22, 2011

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Local Government Official - Chicago/Cook County goes to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Commenter “No Nonsence” was right on the money….

She’s no-nonsense, hard-working and has done everything right so far as County Board Prez. She’s been out in front on decriminalization and lowering the jail population, and it took a lot to keep her promise to roll back the sales tax in this period of austerity. Couldn’t have a better leader at the helm of the County Board.

I think we’ve all been impressed by President Preckwinkle’s performance. Is a gubernatorial bid in her future? It’s not a bad idea.

* Runner-up is Mayor Rahm Emanuel

He has brought a real sense of reform to the city in the first time in, well, forever. He may not be perfect, he may not be polite, but he’s revolutionizing the mayor’s office.

His tenure speaks loudly for itself.

* The nominations for the Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Local Government Official - Collar Counties were all over the place. So, I choose Will County Executive Larry Walsh. Once again, commenter “bored now” points us in the right direction without the bother of capital letters..

electing a democrat to be the county executive in will county was difficult, and a whole lot of things had to come together to make that happen. but the fact is, his election was the easy part. will is, by all indicators, a swing county, both a hotbed of tea party supporters as well as growing minority communities, and one that has always had a strong labor presence. it also has unique rules and trying to hold together coalitions in light of all that has definitely meant that walsh has had his hand full. if he wasn’t so wedded to his community, i’d bet he had wished a thousand times that he never left springfield. but he’s will county’s greatest promoter. another remarkable political talent (btw, i don’t consider walsh a reformer but his political talent can’t be ignored).

Personally, I love me some Larry, but don’t tell him or he’ll get a big head.

* Runner-up is DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin

In two short years he has reduced headcount and spending and has begun the discussion and process of consolidating services by closing DuPage’s Juvenile Detention Facility. He also appears to have more consolidation on his agenda. They also reformed their employee benefits, cutting long-term cost in a sensible manner.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Local Government Official - Downstate was a no-brainer. Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten

He was criticized as being a “party hack” but has proven himself to be an effective, strong, non-partisan leader. He has cut his budget in a time when the county is simply broke, and has brought a new level of technological advancement

Gordy is a former political blogger, so I have always had a soft spot in my heart for him. He got the most votes, but, if truth be told, I would’ve picked him anyway.

* Runner-up goes to Savanna Police Chief Michael Moon. I have never heard of this guy, but this is one wild nomination…

My vote goes to Chief Michael Moon of the Savanna, IL Police Department on the basis that when I had to go out there to do some business for a client, he made sure I didn’t get killed in the process. “Made sure I don’t get killed” is about the highest compliment I can give any official. Chief Moon, my wife and kids thank you and your department.

Um, OK. I lived in Savanna for a while and never felt in danger, but maybe times have changed.

…Adding… I’m told that the Savanna incident in question is described here.

* On to today’s nominations. This is the last and final round…

* Best Contract Lobbyist

* Best In-House Lobbyist

* Best “Do-Gooder” Lobbyist

* The Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse “Insider”

Do your very best to nominate in all categories, please. And, as always, make sure to fully explain your nominations. Have fun and choose wisely.

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      


Thursday, Dec 22, 2011

* Idiots

For 32 years, nearly half as a tactical officer, Jim Sak was a cop chasing down bad guys on the streets of Chicago.

Now that he’s retired and living in tiny Aurelia, Ia., the townsfolk are chasing him — to get rid of “Snickers,” a five-year-old Pit bull-mix service dog he needs after suffering a debilitating stroke that left him with no feeling on the right side of his body.

On orders from the Aurelia City Council, a heartbroken Sak has shipped his beloved protector off to a kennel just outside of the Iowa town where he moved last month to be closer to his ailing, 87-year-old mother-in-law. If he hadn’t gotten rid of Snickers, city fathers had threatened to seize and destroy the dog.

The mandate sets the stage for a landmark lawsuit on grounds that the federal Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees people with disabilities the right to have service dogs, regardless of their breed. […]

George Wittgraf, an attorney representing the Iowa town, said Aurelia is “simply exercising its authority to protect and preserve the rights and property of its residents — whether or not that’s trumped by” federal law.

Over 600,000 Americans died in a civil war over that very question, Mr. Wittgraf. And your side lost. Badly. Get over it.

So, no, your little town cannot unilaterally nullify federal laws, doofus. Sheesh, man, are your law books that old?

I thoroughly despise northern neoconfederates.

* This is odd. The State Journal-Register demanded that a Republican candidate explain his totally silly non-plan

Dennis Shackelford, owner of the Judy’s Hallmark shops in Springfield, formally announced his candidacy for the Illinois House Wednesday, saying he understands that taxpayers should be treated like the important customers they are.

“I know business,” Shackelford, flanked by family members and state Reps. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, and Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, told supporters in the Statehouse rotunda. “I’m a job creator.” […]

He said he believes in taking care of young people, the elderly, and “people who can’t take care of themselves.”

He’d like to see the recent state income-tax increases rolled back and said the state budget could be balanced by getting rid of fat. However, he didn’t propose any specific cuts, saying only that consolidating some services, including combining some school districts, could be possibilities.

He’s for more spending, but he wants to cut spending. OK, I can see how that ridiculous platform would be challenged. But what about this Democrat’s plan?

Brad Gillespie, an attorney, military veteran, school board member and former laborer from Shipman, says job creation will be his focus as he runs as a Democrat for the Illinois House in the new 95th District.

“The number one focus of my campaign is to get our economy back on track and get people working again,” Gillespie, 46, said in a recent campaign announcement. “The Republican Party has shown that they are beholden to the big banks and special interests. … I believe we need to return to the hardworking values that built this country and made America great.”

No SJ-R challenge was issued to Democrat Gillespie to explain his grandiose plans. That’s too bad.

* Speaking of the SJ-R, on Tuesday the paper published an editorial entitled “Lawmakers shrug off those who can’t lobby.” The very next day, the paper made this announcement

State Journal-Register executive editor Jon K. Broadbooks resigned Wednesday to take a job with a statewide trade association.

Broadbooks, who joined the SJ-R in 2008, will become director of communications for the Illinois Association of Realtors. He begins his new role in early January.

Ironic, no?

* From the text of Illinois’ civil unions law

A party to a civil union is entitled to the same legal obligations, responsibilities, protections, and benefits as are afforded or recognized by the law of Illinois to spouses, whether they derive from statute, administrative rule, policy, common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law.

* Ummm

City aldermen in Springfield have decided that partners of employees in a civil union will not be covered by insurance.

Since the city is self-insured, city officials say they are not required to offer the same benefits to those in a civil union.

Lisa? Are you paying attention?

…Adding… OK, the city doesn’t have to comply with the state law because of an overriding federal law on self insurance. Not being a neoconfederate means I have to take this back. Sorry.

…Adding More... Letter from Ald. Sam Cahnman to WAND TV, which broadcast the above report…

To: WAND TV News

The story on your website reporting that Springfield Aldermen have denied health coverage to Civil Union Partners of City employees is erroneous.

That decision was made by the City’s Joint Labor/Management Health Care Committee. This is a Committee that was set up under an agreement entered into between the City and the City labor unions in 2002 under former Mayor Karen Hasara. It was reauthorized in 2005 under the late Mayor Tim Davlin.

The Committee consists of 5 apponted by the labor unions, 2 appointed by the City Council and 3 non-represented City employee appointed by the Mayor to represent Management.

The 2 aldermen on the Committee are Frank Edwards (Ward 1) and Steve Dove (Ward 9) (also State Senate Candidate).

On September 12th, Aldermen Doris Turner (Ward 3), Cory Jobe (Ward 6) and I (Ward 5) wrote a letter to the Committee urging it to provide coverage to Civil Union partners of City employees. I presented the letter to the Committee at their September meeting and made a presentation to the Commitee.

Since then, the Committee recently voted unanimously to deny coverage. Below are comments I made to a State Journal-Register reporter about this.

Aldermen Turner, Jobe and I have asked the Corporation Counsel to draft an ordinance mandating coverage for Civil Union partners of City employees. Also, today I learned that only 100 of the 106 Civil Union licenses issued in Sangamon County have been returned. Therefore, it is unlikely that any more than a handful of city employiees, if any, are in Civil Unions. Therefore, the financial impact would likely be insignificant.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Morning Christmas Video

Thursday, Dec 22, 2011

* Bob

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton

You’re running out of time to share your favorite Christmas songs. Have at it, campers.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      

Today’s deep thought

Thursday, Dec 22, 2011

* I have to admit that I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Rep. Jack Franks, even though I’ve often been perturbed at his blatant media antics. But commenter “Yellow Dog Democrat” wrote something last night that helped me understand why I’ve always liked the guy

(H)e’s less camera hog and more Merry Prankster. It’s usually good-natured, unless Jack decides that he just really thinks you’re a tool, in which case Jack’s Brain works day and night plotting ways to make your life Miserable. [Links added]

What a brilliant insight. And absolutely spot-on.

So, who can top YDD’s insight today? Dazzle us with your brilliance.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

*** UPDATED X4 - No Apology *** Cardinal George compares gay liberation movement to KKK

Thursday, Dec 22, 2011

[Bumped up for visibility.]

* Wednesday, 9:21 pm - Cardinal Francis George went way overboard when talking to Mike Flannery and Dane Placko at Fox 32 Wednesday. During taping for the Fox Chicago Sunday program, George said he backed a North Side pastor who objects to the new route of next year’s Gay Pride Parade. The route would go right past the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church on a Sunday morning, starting at 10 o’clock, which the local pastor says would make it difficult if not impossible to attend mass. The parade drew something like 750,000 spectators this year.

Anyway, on to the interview, the transcript of which was provided by Fox Chicago

Mike Flannery, Fox Chicago News Political Editor: The Gay Pride Parade is going to go right by there, at least it is scheduled to. What’s your view? The pastor there is upset by that.

Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago: Well, I go with the pastor. I mean, he’s telling us that they won’t be able to have Church services on Sunday, if that’s the case.

You know, you don’t want the Gay Liberation Movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism. So, I think if that’s what’s happening, and I don’t know that it is, but I would respect the local pastor’s, you know, position on that. Then I think that’s a matter of concern for all of us.

Dane S. Placko, Fox Chicago News: That’s a little strong analogy, isn’t it? Ku Klux Klan?

Cardinal George: It is. But you take a look at the rhetoric.

Placko: What rhetoric?

Cardinal George: The rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan, the rhetoric of some in the Gay Liberation. Who is the enemy? Who is the enemy? The Catholic Church.


* React

Openly gay State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), whose district includes the Gay Pride parade route, criticized the Cardinal’s “unfortunate choice of words.” Harris predicted “it probably will provoke other unfortunate words” from some gay activists.

* And the backlash

In a press release, LGBT Catholic organization Rainbow Sash Movement sounded off against the cardinal’s comments.

“Cardinal George wants to promote a doubled standard when it comes to the Gay Pride Parade,” the statement read. “One only has the look at the Chicago Marathon, and negative impact that race has on parishes such as Assumption Parish, St. Joseph’s Parish, Immaculate Conception Parish and St. Michael’s Parish just to name a few.”


Anthony Martinez, executive director of The Civil Rights Agenda, said he understands that the parade takes place on Sunday, a holy day for Catholic churches, but that there are several churches along the parade route and they aren’t objecting to it. Some are even planning to participate in the parade, he added.

“It seems to me that the cardinal is lashing out at the LBGT community over past matters and legislation that have now been resolved,” Martinez said, referring to the civil unions bill and the Church’s loss of state foster home and adoption contracts.

* The unfortunate irony

Our Lady of Mount Carmel hosts the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach, and [Father Thomas Srenn of Mount Carmel] said that reservations about the event had nothing to do with the content of the parade.

Before Cardinal George made his KKK remarks, he told Fox Chicago that he supports the Catholic Gay & Lesbian organization based at Mt Carmel and has led the group’s liturgy.

*** UPDATE 1 - 10:15 pm *** Wow. Talk about your irony. This just in

Organizers with Chicago’s annual gay pride parade have agreed to a later start time after one of Chicago’s oldest Roman Catholic churches objected to a newly-proposed route they claimed would block access to Sunday Masses.

I seriously doubt the KKK would be so accommodating.

*** UPDATE 2 - 10:34 pm *** Video

*** UPDATE 3 - Thursday, 1:30 pm *** So far, none of the three Chicago-area newspapers has picked up this story. The Associated Press has moved two stories about Cardinal George since last night, but neither mentioned the KKK comment.

*** UPDATE 4 ***. I’m out of the office and posting via iPhone, but the Tribune finally posted a story.

…Adding… He’s not backing down. Tribune story

“Whether it was the best choice of analogy I don’t know. Taken out of context the meaning can be misinterpreted,” an archdiocesan spokeswoman said. “I would suggest people read the whole interview.”

AP story is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      

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