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Bills gets 10 years for red light scheme

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* Tribune

John Bills, the central figure in a massive corruption scheme at City Hall, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for taking up to $2 million in bribes and gifts in return for steering tens of millions of dollars in red light camera contracts to an Arizona company.

The sentence came moments after Bills choked up in a packed federal courtroom and apologized for his actions and the shame it brought to his family.

Bills, 55, who rose through City Hall as part of the political patronage army of longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, faced up to 30 years in prison for personally profiting in exchange for helping grow the city’s $600 million red-light camera program into the largest in the nation.

* Austin Berg with the Illinois Policy Institute

Prosecutors do not allege improper behavior by Madigan. But his involvement in Bills’ scheming is a case study in how entrenched political gatekeepers run the show in Illinois.

Yep on both counts. More from his piece

Bills was a top-performing precinct captain for Madigan’s ward operation for decades. And he began his career in Chicago’s Bureau of Electricity, “dubbed ‘Madigan Electric’ due to the number of 13th Ward loyalists employed there,” according to the Tribune.

Not only did Bills help Redflex buy its way into the city’s red-light-camera business, but he also worked to expand Redflex’s presence in Chicago to include speed cameras and stop-sign enforcement.

Federal prosecutors’ evidence showed Bills met with Madigan to discuss speed cameras.

In April 2010, O’Malley sent an email highlighting Bills’ efforts: “JB has talked to Speaker of the house Matigan [sic] about Speed. Time for you to have private meeting & presentation!!!”

Less than a year later, Madigan sponsored state legislation allowing speed cameras in Chicago. Former Gov. Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 965 into law Feb. 6, 2012.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Big Muddy - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 2:59 pm:

    “Bills, 55, who rose through City Hall as part of the political patronage army of longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan”


  2. - Zaphod - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 3:02 pm:

    Also it is John not Tom.

  3. - Nick Danger - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 3:07 pm:

    He should appeal all the way to the IL SC, good chance of overturning his conviction 4-3. There is precedent ya know.

  4. - Not It - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 3:09 pm:

    The guy was blatantly corrupt and should have done more then ten years. There is no chance it was just political horse trading or someone else was the real corrupt official, this guy is slime and damages public service for everyone else who enjoys working for the public.

  5. - Nick Danger - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 3:14 pm:

    …but then breaking down in court and apologizing is very un-Madigan soldier-like..

  6. - Keyrock - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 3:16 pm:

    He could spend much less time in federal custody if he wanted to have a frank and open discussion with an AUSA and a few agents.
    Most are very nice people.

  7. - jim - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 3:18 pm:

    he had reason to cry — 10 years is almost 10 years in the federal system — might get a few months off his sentence if he behaves. he should have offered to help the feds find more corruption in city and state government. of course, this might have been the first time he ever did anything wrong, in which case he’d have nothing to tell the feds. glad to see judges starting to get tough on corruption.

  8. - cdog - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 3:33 pm:

    maybe he did help the Feds….one never knows…./s

  9. - Checkers - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 3:36 pm:

    In cases like this, do people like Bills usually have to pay back the bribes and gifts?

  10. - Michael Westen - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 3:48 pm:

    Recently ran into one of Bills’ close friends who spent an hour trying to convince me that Bills did nothing wrong by taking cash. Some people won’t learn no matter how many of them go away.

  11. - steve schnorf - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 4:09 pm:

    this guys stole really big money, got a sentence 30% less than Governor B who successfully stole virtually nothing. Shows once again how screwed up the federal system is.

  12. - DuPage - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 4:14 pm:

    They should have invalidated the contracts and got rid of the cameras altogether.

  13. - Anon Downstate - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 4:16 pm:

    Keep being reminded of the old Russian saying when I see things like this:

    “For my friends, Everything. For my Enemies, The Law.”

  14. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 4:47 pm:

    Keyrock, after sentencing is a bit late to Come to Jesus with the Feds. As cdog points out, who knows-maybe he did have a little chat beforehand.

  15. - Winnin' - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 5:05 pm:

    If there is anyone who feels kicked in the gut by a worker gone wrong, it’s Madigan.

  16. - NoGifts - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 6:33 pm:

    It’s a shame that one person could mess up the reputation of what is really a good technology and safety program.

  17. - Not It - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 6:42 pm:

    Unlike Blago and Jackson who were just stupid and probably thought they could honestly get away with selling themselves for campaign contributions, this guy was pocketing cash for personal benefit. Pure definition of corrupt, no wiggle room. No sympathy from me.

  18. - Last Bull Moose - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 6:42 pm:

    What amazes me is that convictions do not change the culture. I worked for a firm where executives had been jailed for price fixing years earlier. People were still paranoid.

  19. - JackD - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 7:00 pm:

    Nice to see that in the great Chicago (Illinois?) tradition we still assume the guilt of the unindicted (Madigan) without evidence.

  20. - Keyrock - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 7:10 pm:

    AA- the G can recommend a reduced sentence for cooperation after sentencing. Rule 35, Fed. R. Crim Pro.

  21. - park - Monday, Aug 29, 16 @ 9:49 pm:


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