CHICAGO (CBS) — Disgraced former Chicago Ald. Ambrosio Medrano was sentenced to 10½ years in prison Friday by a federal judge who called the serially corrupt Southwest Side politician a “cynical” operator who followed the city’s unofficial motto, “Where’s mine?”
The sentence means the thrice-convicted Medrano, 61, could serve more total prison time than any elected public official in Chicago history.
Though the 15-year sentence handed to Cook County Judge Thomas Maloney in 1994 for accepting bribes to fix murder trials remains the heftiest single sentence ever imposed on a Chicago-area elected official, Medrano previously served a 2½-year sentence in the 1990s for accepting a bribe. And he still faces another 5 years when he’s sentenced in yet another case on Monday.
He has the dubious distinction of being the only former Chicago alderman convicted of corruption on two separate occasions.
A tearful Medrano apologized for his crimes to the judge Friday, saying he had “acted foolishly without thinking about the consequences.”
Medrano pleaded guilty in a scheme to steer a medical bandages contract to a company in exchange for bribes.
Prosecutors argued in court papers filed ahead of Friday’s sentencing hearing before U.S. Judge Gary Feinerman that Medrano’s decision to return to a life of crime after his 1990s conviction for accepting a $31,000 bribe meant this time he deserved to do a lengthier stretch behind bars than former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in 2011.
They asked Feinerman to lock up Medrano for between 14 and 17½ years for his role in scams to pay bribes in return for medical contracts to supply bandages to Cook County.
“In many respects Medrano’s actions are more severe than Blagojevich’s,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Stetler wrote.
“Not only did Medrano reoffend, but he did so repeatedly and in connection with three different governments,” he added, referring to scams connected to Los Angeles County and Cicero.
In one of the most damning pieces of evidence against Medrano, he was secretly taped echoing shamed co-conspirator and former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno’s comments that he wanted to be a “pig” at the trough of government contract, but not a “hog” because “hogs get slaughtered.”
Stetler said Friday that those comments were “consistent with his approach to public office” and showed “crystal clear that he knew what was going on.”
Even allowing for Illinois history of political corruption Medrano’s case was “unique” Stetler said, because he’d returned to a life of crime after serving time.
“People should expect honest government, whether or not they agree with the decisions public officials make,” he added.
But Medrano’s lawyer, Gal Pissetzky argued that Blagojevich’s crimes were far worse and that he should get no more than 9 years.
He wrote in a court filing that Medrano’s “motivation was never to hurt the people of Chicago, who he absolutely loves and always helped, but to attempt to alleviate his family’s financial struggle.”
During Friday’s hearing he added that Medrano had made “some pretty bad stumbles” in his life and was “on the one hand thinking about his community and on the other thinking about himself” when he conspired to pull off the scam.
All Medrano wanted was the chance to live long enough to spend “a little time with his wife” once he’s completed his sentence, Pissetzky said.
Medrano, who was captured with the help of politically connected Bridgeport politician Michael DiFoggio, faced a maximum of 20 years.
DiFoggio, who was ostracized by former pals after he wore a wire for the feds, committed suicide late last year.
The longest sentence ever handed to an Illinois politician is believed to be the 20-year sentence handed last year to former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell, who stole tens of millions of dollars from her downstate town.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)