Reporting Bernie Tafoya
UPDATED: Oct. 15, 2010 5:14 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) - The former Chicago alderman and longtime political power-broker known as “Fast Eddie” was sentenced to 10 months in prison Friday for a $1.5 million real estate kickback scheme.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly also sentenced Ed Vrdolyak to five months of work release and five months of home confinement and fined him $260,000.
CBS 2′s Jim Williams reports that a glum-looking Vrdolyak, 72, apologized for the scheme during a minute-long statement at his resentencing hearing earlier in the day.
“This has been a long and difficult ordeal for everyone. I’m sorry. I made a stupid mistake. It was dumb. I was wrong,” Vrdolyak said.
But the former alderman’s apology wasn’t enough to keep him out of prison for a second time. He was initially sentenced to probation in 2008, but an appeals court threw out that sentence.
Vrdolyak’s attorney, Michael Monico, said there are no plans to appeal the new sentence.
“I can’t tell you and I won’t tell you what he expected, or what we discussed, other than to say we will accept this sentence and we’re happy this ordeal is over,” Monico said. “This has been a long and difficult ordeal for Mr. Vrdolyak and his family. He is happy that that’s over and that he can get on with his life.”
Kennelly praised Vrdolyak’s work to help the Chicago area, but said he “corrupted the process,” calling the kickback scheme a “serious, sophisticated crime by sophisticated people … pulling the wool over the eyes” of their victims.
The judge took Vrdolyak’s age and good works for the Chicago area into account in sentencing the former alderman to less than the maximum of 3 1/2 years that he could have faced. But he also said that “to give him no prison time would not reflect the seriousness of the crime.”
Vrdolyak pleaded guilty to mail fraud in 2008. He admitted to scheming with Stuart Levine to split a $1.5 million payoff to arrange the sale of a Gold Coast building belonging to Smithfield Properties, eliminating other bidders. The building had belonged to the former Chicago Medical School.
Citing 40 letters written on Vrdolyak’s behalf, Kennelly said that the former alderman “went above and beyond for the powerless, people who needed his help. He went the extra miile for those who couldn’t do him good in return.”
Among the letters Kennelly received were one from a Vrdolyak neighbor who wrote that Vrdolyak paid for her husband’s funeral and gave her a job as a receptionist after her husband died suddenly, leaving her with no money. Another person wrote that Vrdolyak made several calls to arrange cancer treatment for him at the University of Chicago Hospitals and one person said Vrdolyak helped him land a job at the prominent Chicago law firm Kirkland & Ellis.
Vrdolyak is to report to prison on Jan. 19, 2011.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, Vrdolyak, a former 10th Ward alderman, had previously been sentenced to five years of probation for his crime, but an appeals court tossed out that sentence.
Vrdolyak gained the moniker “Fast Eddie” because of his ability to hammer out back-room deals in the City Council back in the 1970s and ’80s. But he is unlikely to be able to talk himself out of some serious problems Friday.
The judge heard an hour-and-a-half of arguments from the prosecution and defense. The government wants a 3 1/2 year sentence. The defense says a sentence shouldn’t include prison time. Kennelly said he’d announce a sentence Friday afternoon after a two-hour break.
Vrdolyak originally was sentenced to five years of probation. But an appeals court compared that to a slap on the wrist and ordered the re-sentencing.
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Last year, Vrdolyak was sentenced to community service and five years’ probation by U.S. District Judge Milton I. Shadur.
The controversial decision enraged prosecutors, who complained and appealed the ruling. A federal appeals court threw the sentence out.
At the hearing Friday, the not-for-profit medical hospital made an initial statement as the victim. Afterward, prosecutors began making their case for an upper-level sentence of 3 1/2 years.
Vrdolyak was alderman of the 10th Ward on the Southeast Side from 1971 to 1986, and was also the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. He led the bloc of 29 aldermen who battled the late Mayor Harold Washington during Chicago’s “Council Wars” era in the 1980s.
Vrdolyak later switched parties and ran for mayor unsuccessfully as a Republican. He was also a key adviser to former Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, who was convicted in a scheme to loot the western suburb’s treasury.
Earlier this week, a published report indicated that Vrdolyak had finished most of his community service from his original sentence. But he fulfilled much of the requirement organizing a star-studded fundraiser at Gibson’s steakhouse, 1028 N. Rush St., recruiting attendees on his cell phone while driving around the city, the Chicago Tribune reported.
CBS 2′s Mike Puccinelli and Jim Williams, Newsradio 780′s Bernie Tafoya and The Associated Press contributed to this report.