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Did the appellate court all but guarantee prison for Fast Eddie?

Friday, Jan 29, 2010

* As you’ve probably seen in the news feeds by now, an appellate court has ruled that Eddie Vrdolyak must be re-sentenced

Former Chicago Ald. Ed Vrdolyak’s probation-only sentence for fraud has been overturned by an appellate panel, meaning he could face prison time when he is re-sentenced.

Vrdolyak had pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the $15 million sale of a Gold Coast building belonging to the former Chicago Medical School, now called the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.

Vrdolyak schemed with school board member Stuart Levine to split a $1.5 million kickback from the sale of the building to Smithfield Properties Development.

U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur sentenced Vrdolyak to probation last year— leading to headlines of “Fast Eddie Walks” that played off the former alderman’s nickname.

The majority opinion is basically a long, blistering attack on the sentencing judge

A judge is not permitted to have his own rules of admissibility—to say for example that “[i]n my court no exceptions to the hearsay rule will be recognized.” As we shall be emphasizing throughout this opinion, our concern is not with the leniency of the defendant’s sentence as such but with procedural errors committed by the judge en route to the determination of the sentence.

The judge’s refusal to listen to the evidence of the potential buyers was an egregious error because the evidence was corroborated.

The court ordered that a new judge preside over Vrdolyak’s new sentencing hearing. Reading the opinion shows why. The majority claimed that the judge had gone into the sentencing hearing determined to cut Fast Eddie some major slack…

One cannot read the 168-page transcript of the sentencing hearing, and the two memoranda attempting to justify the sentence that the judge issued after he had announced the sentence at the conclusion of the hearing, without sensing that the judge had committed himself irrevocably to a noncustodial sentence for the defendant. He pretty much announced this at the outset of the hearing…

The judge’s errors in calculating the guidelines range are indicative of an idée fixe that the defendant was not to receive a custodial sentence, even (as the government urged in the alternative) home confinement.

And here is why Vrdolyak may finally wind up behind bars…

The zero loss found by the district judge created a guidelines sentencing range of zero to six months in prison; the correct loss figure of $1.5 million (which incidentally was within the range that the defendant agreed in the plea agreement was the intended loss attributable to his crime) ups the sentencing range to 33 to 41 months. [emphasis added]

If Eddie wants to stay out of prison, he’d better start talking… Fast.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

19 Comments
  1. - Carl Nyberg - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 12:13 pm:

    A judge behaving arbitrarily? I’m shocked! I’m even more shocked that the arbitrariness worked to the advantage of someone politically connected.

    Good for Team Fitz for appealing and winning on appeal.

    The amount of knuckleheadedness on the bench is truly disturbing.


  2. - tubbfan - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 12:15 pm:

    if my memory serves me correctly (an admittedly big “if”), the pundits and legal scholars at the time of the sentencing agreed with the judge that he could walk without jail time. There was a lot of press about outrage, but there was also press about the reputation of the judge and the fact that his hands were tied as far as sentencing goes.


  3. - Anonymous - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 12:15 pm:

    Niles Mayor Nick Blase was sentenced today too. Great day for politicians of the 70s/80s…


  4. - lake county democrat - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 12:24 pm:

    The weird thing is that Milton Shadur, the sentancing judge, has a fantastic reputation - Something just seemed to rub him the wrong way on this one. I don’t know what the trial court judges think of Posner, the guy who wrote this opinion, but he’s definitely somewhat of a gadfly (he writes in the New Republic all the time, publishes books, etc.). Will the judge who gets this really show up Shadur that much with a harsh sentance, or will he/she try to do something “more, but modest”?


  5. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 12:27 pm:

    tubbfan -

    As the appellate ruling makes clear, the conclusions of the press and punditry were predicated on the judge’s ruling of “No harm, no foul.”

    The judge indefensibly ignored the fact that Eddie had committed $1.5 million in fraud, concluding no real harm had been done.


  6. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 12:30 pm:

    Carl -

    Unlike state courts, federal judges are bound by very strict sentencing “guidelines”, giving them very little latitude.

    PART of the justification for different standards at the state and federal level is that state judges are ELECTED, and can be tossed out for capricious or egregious miscarriages of justice.

    Personally, I prefer the state system.


  7. - Judgment Day Is On The Way - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 12:38 pm:

    The “Game” starts anew…. There’s lots larger targets out there than “Fast Eddie”, but he’s the key to opening the doors.

    Looks like Stuart Levine will be back before the federal GJ once Eddie rolls.


  8. - just sayin' - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 12:39 pm:

    Oh no, who will take care of Eddie’s buffalo if he has to go to the slammer? (Recall one got loose from his farm in Michigan a year or two ago and caused havoc in a subdivision.)

    Maybe a big going-away barbeque?


  9. - And I Approved This Message - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 12:52 pm:

    Time for Brian Urlacher to send off another letter.


  10. - VanillaMan - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 1:01 pm:

    First Eddie, then they go after Rod - now back to Eddie. Then Rod goes to court…

    Twenty five years ago, when Rod was shooting hoops with Eddie’s family, no one would have guessed that these guys would be passing one another in the halls of the Dirksen building, followed by teams of reporters, photographers, and television crews.

    Ain’t life a lark?


  11. - SweetLou - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 1:02 pm:

    someone finally pinned down Fast Eddie!


  12. - Boscobud - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 1:31 pm:

    Do you have any news about Paul Froehlich getting sued?


  13. - CircularFiringSquad - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 1:43 pm:

    Does this means the all the ERV tapes get played…I beez being worried now


  14. - Silly Season - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 1:45 pm:

    What will the effect of having Stu Levine’s name back in the news be on Jim Ryan’s campaign, especially if he wins the primary?


  15. - Dan S, a voter and Cubs Fan - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 2:03 pm:

    Thank God common sense has prevailed. Fats Eddie can warm up a bunk for Blagoof.


  16. - Area 2 - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 3:07 pm:

    So what exactly is the difference between the quid-pro-quos involved with the Vrdolyak matter and the quid-pro-quos involved with the steering of another high-profile commercial property in downtown Chicago - the former Chicago Housing Authority headquarters located at 626 West Jackson?

    http://biggovernment.com/2010/01/26/the-fix-was-in-obama-donor-gets-sweetheart-real-estate-deal-in-chicago/

    The above-matter, as reported on BigGovernment.com on Tuesday of this week and reported in September 2007, is only the tip-of-the-iceberg. Tueday’s perspective in BigGovernment was picked-up by Drudge Report for a few hours as well.

    Again, what’s the difference between the Vrdolyak matter and the Chicago Housing Authority matter? Its appearing the only material difference is that Ed Vrdolyak did not accept payment, while there are substantial documented quid-pro-quos with parties involved with the 626 West Jackson disposition.


  17. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 3:13 pm:

    That’s a pretty big smackdown by the Appellate Court on Shadur. It sure won’t discourage those who believe the fix was in.

    Posner’s the hardest working man in judge business — he’s not lacking in opinions or suffering from writer’s block.


  18. - Justice Served - Friday, Jan 29, 10 @ 4:05 pm:

    Kudos to Pat Fitzgerald. After the hit he took for breaching the “four corners” while announcing the Blago indictment, I think he’s learned that he is most effective when he lets the facts speak for themselves. In this case, they have. And the bad guy goes to jail.

    Chalk up one more for the good guys.

    And to Pat: Don’t stop digging. There’s plenty more corruption where that came from.


  19. - DuPage Dan - Saturday, Jan 30, 10 @ 12:52 am:

    Eddie are you kidding, no, no, Eddy are you kidding - I see your double knits, they really are the pits, you said that you could fit me with a $50 suit, hey, hey, goodbye, Eddie. See ya on the flip side.


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