My syndicated newspaper column is about… what else?… the Levine plea.
Corrupt political insider Stu Levine was hit with so many federal indictments earlier this year that he literally was facing a life sentence behind bars.
Last week, he copped a plea that will let him walk free after five years and seven months in what probably will be a minimum security prison — in exchange for his cooperation.
We can discern one of two things from this: 1) Much of the federal case was weak and letting Levine off relatively easy was a face-saving move by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald; or 2) Levine has agreed to help the feds reel in some very big fish and used that prospect to negotiate a much better deal.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I find myself leaning toward “Door Number 2.”
* Mark Brown:
There was no hint of an apology, nor any expression of embarrassment nor regret for even unwittingly keeping Levine in a position of trust. There was no acceptance of responsibility whatsoever, not even the indirect sort. He didn’t even do that thing Mayor Daley does where he acts like he’s angry about somebody letting him down.
* Carol Marin:
It is hard to feel sorry for Levine. Harder still to have sympathy for one of his dearest friends, Edward “Fast Eddie” Vrdolyak. But one of the twists of this case that had to be wrenching for Levine is that in trying to save himself from a lifetime behind bars, he apparently had to wire up on and sell out someone he truly cared about. And so he secretly recorded conversations that would give the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office the chance to do what they have dreamed of doing for decades: build a case against the Dark Lord of the 10th Ward.
Vrdolyak, a former alderman who once ran for Chicago mayor, is a millionaire many times over, thanks to the taxpayers of Cicero and other hapless municipalities that paid him seven figures annually for his “advice and counsel.” One of his ill-fated advisees, former Cicero Town President Betty Loren Maltese, sits in federal prison now after being convicted of corruption.
Though he has been investigated a dozen times, the catlike Vrdolyak has easily had nine lives. Until now.
* And the Tribune has seven questions:
- Who are the “certain State of Illinois officials” with whom Rezko allegedly had clout to influence appointments to state boards?
In the early Blagojevich years, who in the governor’s office–other than the governor himself, of course–had the authority to suggest formal appointments to state boards whose decisions had huge financial impacts?
- Did any staff member ever express concern to Blagojevich that Rezko was exerting influence over his appointment process?
- Who, if the indictment is correct, preserved a scheme to steer decisions on teacher pension system investments by derailing a proposed consolidation of that fund with two others?
- Was anyone in the governor’s office aware of the alleged plot to extort $1.5 million in political contributions from an investment firm?
- What does the Rezko indictment–and now the Levine plea agreement–say about your 2002 campaign pledge to end “business as usual” in Illinois if you became governor?
- And the seventh question: Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan says the governor’s office should make public any federal subpoenas issued to his administration–and stop withholding them from view. Illinois government belongs to the people, Governor. Why won’t you show them the subpoenas?