Showing posts with label U.S. Attorney. Show all posts
Showing posts with label U.S. Attorney. Show all posts

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fitzgerald Plays Peoria

by Cal Skinner

Here's what might be an interesting development.

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald spoke at the mid-year graduation ceremony at Peoria's Bradly University this weekend.

That's what this Chicago Tribune media story reports.

Peoria is not in the court district in which Fitzgerald serves.

If one were thinking about running for statewide public office, someone like Fitzgerald would be trying to make himself known through Illinois.

Could this be an leading indicator that Patrick Fitzgerald might be willing to run for office?

If he wanted to take that leap, following in the footsteps of Jim Thompson, who seemed to lust for the office of governor long before he left the U.S. Attorney's Office, this might be Fitzgerald's first step.

Would he run as a Republican or a Democrat?

Or, as independent?

No one I know has a clue where he stands on any issue but public corruption.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Part 5 - Pervasive Problems at Cook County Jail - Access to Medical and Dental Care

This is the fifth installment of what was contained in the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division report about Cook County Jail. It concentrates on prisoner access to medical and dental care.

How about sick call?

Here’s how bad access to medical care is. And, this is from July 25, 2007, six months after Dart was sworn in as sheriff:

One of the investigators brings to the attention (page 56) of the medical staff that a prisoner has “requested medical treatment (several times) for staples and sutures left in his scalp and sutures that had been left in his arm.”
No response from the medical types.

Now get this next sentence:
”He reportedly was placed in lock down for ten days for making repeated requests for medical care. It is inappropriate to punish inmates for requesting medical care.”
Dental care?

One dentist for 9,500 prisoners.

Extractions only (page 57). Twenty-five percent resulted in chronic infections (inflammation/disease of the bone or dry sockets).

The jail has lost its accreditation (page 58) from the National Commission on Correctional Health.

With that loss went the incentive to measure performance of the medical system.

And mental health care?

Not too high on the priority list when budget cutting time comes (page 59).

Tomorrow: Suicide and fire prevention.

Previous stories:
Part 1 - Pervasive Problems at Cook County Jail - Sheriff Tom Dart's Goals

Part 2 - Pervasive Problems at Cook County Jail - 2007 Complaints of Physical Abuse to Inmates


Part 3 - Pervasive Problems at Cook County Jail - Causes of and Cures for Physical Abuse


Part 4 - Pervasive Problems at Cook County Jail - Medical Care

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Part 1 - Pervasive Problems at Cook County Jail

When former State Rep. Tom Dart took office as Cook County Sheriff, he issued a press release full of reform goals.

Here are three ideas I extracted from a Sun-Times article on Dart’s statement:

  • “Faith-based groups to increase mentoring for inmates to reduce recidivism,”

  • "Installation of “a comprehensive video surveillance system at Cook County Jail,” and

  • ”An internal hotline so employees can report suspected corruption?”
Public officials don’t usually spend money on prisoners. Their opinion is usually “they deserve anything they get” and it’s usually backed up by their constituents.

(The rest of the story is here.)

I’ve been reading the Justice Department's letter to Cook County Board President Todd Stroger concerning its Civil Rights Division’s investigation of the Cook County Jail.

Suicides, inappropriate beatings by guards, taunts about future rapes. I’ll quote parts of some of the findings to give you a sense of the inhumanness of the institution.

Since preventing rape in prison was my “social cause” of the 1990’s, let me start there.” (The case below was not on Dart’s watch, by the way.)
”Pedro S. was arrested on a sex charge brought by his niece. While in the intake area three officers who had read the charge began taunting him, yelling threats in Spanish, and asking if he knew what was about to happen to him. [Emphasis added. From what I learned while serving on Tom Johnson’s and Tom Dart’s Prison Reform Committee, typically, sex abusers get sexually assaulted in prison.]

"The officers struck him many times and called him a ‘f------ Mexican‘ …Because the officers threatened to kill Pedro if he said anything about the incident, he did not seek medical attention …released four days later (he) immediately saw a doctor and reported the incident to the Chicago Police Department. Medical records confirm that Pedro’s injuries included a broken rib and damage to his jaw and knee.”
There were five reported cases of sexual assault on the first five months of Dart’s watch, however (page 24).

There are lots of pre-Sheriff Dart abuses cited, but, even though he was undersheriff at the time, I don’t think it’s fair to hold him responsible.

Tomorrow: Cases cited by the federal report after Tom Dart took office as Cook County Sheriff.

Posted first on McHenry County Blog.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Walgreens Takes Hit from Feds in Whistleblower Suit- Costs $35 Million

Medicaid fraud.

First CVS.

Now Illinois-based Walgreens.

$35 million.

$1.25 million to the State of Illinois.

No liability admitted, of course.

Whistle blower Bernard Lisitza, a licensed pharmacist, will receive get just over $5 million.

He is the same one who blew the whistle on CVS. In that case, he (and his lawyer, Michael Behn, of Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered, in Chicago) received $4.3 million.

A press release has just arrived from the United States Attorney's Office.

Probably safe to say that the settlement is high enough to pay for the cost of Patrick Fitzgerald's office for at least a year.

This was first posted on McHenry County Blog.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Rezko trial a civics lesson, not the Crime of the Century

Political junkies with a special interest in Chicago and Illinois are hyperventilating these days over the prospect of a criminal trial that they say will expose the underbelly of our government officials in a way that has never been done before.

When Antoin Rezko goes on trial in U.S. District Court in Chicago (barring any unforeseen last-minute complications, jury selection will begin Monday), we’re going to see how dirty our political culture really is, and we’re going to be so outraged that we’ll throw the bums out of office.

We're even going to see how the “golden child” of Democratic politics, presidential hopeful Barack Obama, is tainted his ties to “the Chicago Machine,” and his aspirations of living in the White House are going to be flushed down the toilet by the time this trial is over.

What we all need to do is stop and catch our breath, so that we can think about this situation a bit more rationally.

It is true that this trial will provide a good technical grasp of how politics is done in Chicago, since the bulk of Rezko’s defense is that he was merely engaging in the same activities other lobbyists perform. Prosecutors say he stepped way over the legal line between legitimate influence peddling and criminal behavior, particularly when he arranged for the appointment of certain people to government posts allegedly knowing of their intent to commit extortion.

But I can easily envision a trial that delves into such technical material that it loses the interest of the general public, even though it is bound to get big play in the newspapers and on television newscasts (where time constraints will result in stories so short and lacking in detail that no one will really understand what is going on).

Detail. That is what a trial like this is really about.

We get to pick up on some details that may smudge the reputations of some political people. But their careers will survive, no matter how much federal prosecutors are determined to push for criminal convictions.

Any testimony related to Obama is going to be minor – of less importance to people interested in good government but of major significance to people searching for something that can be exaggerated into political scandal.

My view of this upcoming trial (which will probably last about two months and I wish I could spare the time in my life to cover it) is tainted by the fact that I still remember the last major political corruption trial that gave us a view of the way people influenced government officials.

It was MSI.

That’s Management Services of Illinois, a long-defunct Springfield, Ill.-based consultant to state government agencies. Specifically, they received a contract to do work for the Illinois Department of Public Aid by which they would go through records and search for instances where a Medicaid recipient might have some sort of medical insurance – which would then allow the state to play the role of collections officer and seek reimbursement.

What was seen as criminal was the amount of money the company got for their work, much of which later turned out to be worthless as the so-called insurance policies were usually long expired.

Prosecutors contended the reason MSI was over-paid by $7 million for their work was because of all the campaign contributions and other favors the company’s officials provided to the then-Republican majority that ran Illinois government.

I still remember the testimony how the company’s CEO devoted a Saturday afternoon to visiting Gov. Jim Edgar’s “log house” in the Springfield suburbs to help our low-tech governor set up his new computer, which the CEO helped him to purchase at a discount.

I still remember the day Edgar himself had to take the witness stand in U.S. District Court in Springfield and testify that he knew nothing of the personal motivations for why MSI officials wanted to help him.

Not even when he had a personal dinner with the executives, and each of them pledged a $10,000 contribution to his re-election campaign in 1994. He claimed to be unable to recall specifics, and said the dinner meeting was just giving “some face time” to potential supporters.

The trial also brought out stories of executives providing mid-level state agency officials with fine cuts of steak and lobster, trips to the Super Bowl and to Mexico, and even to an Arkansas strip joint where the defendants gave the state employees a few hundred dollars in cash each so they wouldn’t have to spend their own money while ogling the girls.

Some of these details have stuck in my mind, while others I had to go look up. The point is that much of the trial also delved in the technical workings of the Illinois Public Aid Department to such a degree that defense attorneys and prosecutors literally had to put together a glossary for jurors so they would understand all the legalese being spewed about.

There was a very strong sense that the jury in that case was overwhelmed with testimony and ultimately found two corporate executives and two mid-level state officials guilty without really understanding what they were guilty of.

I can easily see the same thing happening during the next few months with the Rezko case.

Prosecutors say Rezko was a man who used his personal ties to political people – including Gov. Rod Blagojevich – to persuade companies to pay him significant amounts of money in order to get their desires approved by the government.

That, in and of itself, is NOT illegal, unless you have such a narrow view of what government should be doing that you want to find it all improper.

Prosecutors say the amounts of money involved and the degree to which he would lean on government officials to get his clients’ desires accomplished goes far beyond any legitimate activity by a government lobbyist (a.k.a., legislative affairs consultant, in government geek-speak).

Court documents related to the case make mention of Rezko’s ties to a “Public Official A,” and tell stories that would appear to indicate that this official knew full well, and approved, of the scale to which Rezko’s lobbyist activities reached.

Some officials say “Public Official A” is the legal pseudonym used to refer to Blagojevich, who is not as of yet facing any criminal charges in connection with the matter.

But the “Blagojevich Bashers” of the world (they are a large breed of rural politicos who resent a Chicago governor, supplemented by the many Dems offended by Blagojevich’s arrogant style of governing) want to believe this is just the first step toward the eventual indictment of Gov. Rod.

Rational people ought to wait to hear what comes out of the trial before they start accusing Blagojevich of anything resembling illegal activity.

Back during the summer of ’97, there was a feeling among some political junkies that Edgar’s reputation would be forever sullied because of the embarrassing stories of his ties to government people, and that some people on his own personal staff would wind up doing jail time as well.

That never happened.

When federal prosecutors in Springfield tried to ratchet up their case and go after high-ranking Illinois Public Aid Department officials, including the director, they were unable to prove anything resembling criminal behavior.

Then-Public Aid Director Robert Wright did wind up having to resign a couple of months later (to pursue “personal opportunities,” in government geek-speak), but no one on the governor’s staff ever got indicted. No one on then-Illinois Senate President James “Pate” Philip’s staff was prosecuted either, even though stories came out that his chief of staff knowingly deceived Illinois State Police investigators when they asked for details about computer equipment provided by MSI executives.

It could wind up being more of the same with Rezko.

Political junkies will get a few hard details that provide for stories to be used to ridicule the governor’s judgment. Trial spectators would do well to pay close attention to any details about gifts Blagojevich ever received.

Whenever political people reminisce about MSI (most of the general public has long forgotten the case), they still bring up the testimony about the $5,600 worth of steak and lobsters given to Philip, his chief of staff and an aide, and to longtime Republican powerbroker William Cellini.

Oddly enough, Edgar didn’t get any steaks or lobsters. He had to settle for the new computer and some special software providing information about horse breeding – a topic that Edgar and first lady Brenda had a special interest in.

What will really hurt Blagojevich is that any details about his political ties will dump all over his campaign talk from the past about how he was going to be a serious government reformer.

In both 2002 and 2006, he used his GOP opponents’ ties to former Gov. George Ryan (who now is an inmate at the minimum-security work camp located adjacent to the federal maximum-security prison in Terre Haute, Ind.) as a way of tarnishing them.

He claimed he was the solution for clean government, even though people who really understand politics always knew it was ridiculous to think of Blagojevich as a reformer. No son-in-law of a Chicago alderman is going to want to reform things – his priority is going to ensure that the pieces of the government pie are distributed to different interests.

But to those naïve sorts who actually held out hope that Blagojevich was a good-government type, their delusions will be trashed. That’s probably for the best. We’re better off understanding that Blagojevich is not, “St. Rod.” He’s just a politico, no better or worse than any other.

-30-

Originally posted at www.ChicagoArgus.blogspot.com

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Equal Rights Corruption

I have long observed that a woman in the Chicago metro area has about a five percentage point advantage over a male opponent.

And I have a hypothesis why.

I think it is because since Jim Thompson was U.S. Attorney far more men have been indicted for political corruption than women.

With the attendant publicity.

When a voter goes into a polling place and has no clue whom to vote for, how does he or she make a decision?

Let’s say honest government is important to them voter.

Would they pick a man or a woman, knowing nothing else about the candidates?

Based on my hypothesis, a disproportionate number would vote for the woman.

Yesterday, ex-Chicago AlderWOMAN Andrea Troutman made her contribution to leveling that playing field. She's the one who remarked that most alderman are "hos." (For those of you who lead sheltered lives, that "ho" means "whore.")

Even though ordinary Chicago citizens can't own firearms, alderman have passed an ordinance allowing themselves to have such personal protection. Troutman did so.

She was indicted for

accepting “a $5,000 cash bribe and a check for $5,000 payable to the ‘Twentieth Ward Woman Auxiliary,’ in exchange for taking official action to support alley access on behalf of a purported private developer who was cooperating with law enforcement as part of an undercover investigation,”
according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

If convicted, Troutman would lose the government pension she is now presumably receiving for having served as alderman since 1992.

And go to jail.

= = = = =
The photograph of the recently defeated Alderman Andrea Troutman was taken from her aldermanic web site.

Posted first on McHenry County Blog, of course.

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