U.S. Justice Department prosecutes Chicago politico for merit system violations but so far gives Republican Fletcher a free pass.

          The U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted a Democratic official in Chicago for virtually the same offense for which Kentucky Governor Fletcher and his indicted, but pardoned, workers got a free pass.  Robert Sorich a Democratic worker for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, was sentenced on Nov. 13th. to 46 months in Federal prison.  See news story at Chicago Tribune story on sentencing of Robert Sorich.

      In Kentucky, when his administration was charged with similar offenses, Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher issued a blanket pardon to all state workers and party officials who were indicted for merit system violations. 

Fletcher won several favorable court rulings, one of which held that a Governor could not be prosecuted for a crime while he was in office.  Shortly before Fletcher’s scheduled trial in State Court he entered into a plea agreement with the blessing of the Attorney General, a Democrat, and avoided prosecution.
 Fletcher has subsequently criticized the work of the Grand Jury that indicted him.

 The plea bargain entered to by Gov. Fletcher does not prevent the U.S. Department of Justice from investigating Fletcher and his administration and prosecuting them for Title 18 violations of the United States Code. 

See: Excerpt from Federal Indictment charging  Sorich rewarded political cronies with City jobs and promotions in violation of civil service laws.  

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky Amul Thapar, who was appointed by President Bush, would have jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute Fletcher.  Many of the funds used to pay the workers alleged in the Kentucky indictments were at least partially Federal funds budgeted to the Ky. Dept. of Transportation.  Such a use of federal funds provided the grounds for the Justice Department to intervene into the political hiring practices of the administration of the City of Chicago. Thapar when appointed U.S. Attorney made the pointed statement that “nobody was above the law�.  It is not known if he intends to pursue an investigation of the Fletcher Administration.

   A failure of the Justice Department to take these offenses seriously in Kentucky will surely raise the question that the Justice Department appears more willing to prosecute Democrats in the State of Illinois then it does Republicans in Kentucky, even though the alleged crimes appear identical. 
 Sorich gets 46 months . Daley’s ex-patronage chief refuses to apologizeBy Dan Mihalopoulos and Rudolph Bush
Chicago Tribune staff reporters  -  Published November 21, 2006
Mayor Richard Daley’s former patronage chief stood defiant Monday as he was sentenced to almost 4 years behind bars for his central role in a political hiring scheme at City Hall.

A longtime City Hall insider from Daley’s Bridgeport power base, Robert Sorich pointedly refused to apologize for his crimes before the judge slapped him with a 3-year, 10-month sentence.
“I just want to stand before the court and my family and friends and let them know I am not a broken man,” said Sorich, 43.

“I tried to do my best, and I tried to be fair,” Sorich said of his 12 years as a top aide in Daley’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

U.S. District Judge David Coar rejected that, saying Sorich sat near the top of a hiring system that amounted to “corruption with a capital `c.’”

“If I thought that by sentencing you I could stop this type of hiring corruption in the city of Chicago, I would throw this building at you…. But it won’t,” the judge told Sorich during an emotional hearing.

Monday’s sentencing almost certainly is not the final chapter of an investigation that has reached into the mayor’s office. During Sorich’s trial, prosecutors said that others involved in the hiring fraud would face justice. On Monday, prosecutors again suggested that they have developed evidence against higher-ranking former city officials in Daley’s administration.

Coar gave Sorich a more lenient sentence than the 5 years, 11 months that prosecutors had sought. Sorich’s lawyers had asked that he receive probation.

Sorich and two other former city officials, Timothy McCarthy, 39, and Patrick Slattery, 43, were convicted in July of rigging city hiring to ensure that Daley’s political loyalists received well-paying blue-collar jobs and promotions. A fourth man, former Streets and Sanitation Managing Deputy Commissioner John Sullivan, 39, was convicted of lying to federal agents.

“The people of the city deserve better,” Coar told Sorich. “Frankly, I don’t give a hoot if this has been going on for the past 200 years. It still stinks.”

Coar sentenced Slattery, Sorich’s best friend, to 2 years, 3 months in prison. McCarthy received an 18-month sentence, and Sullivan must serve 2 months in custody and 4 months in home confinement.

Unlike Sorich and Slattery, McCarthy and Sullivan have cooperated with prosecutors in the ongoing federal investigation.

Ties to the Daley family

Sorich, Slattery and McCarthy have long-standing ties to the Daley family’s 11th Ward Democratic Organization. Sullivan is from the Beverly neighborhood.

Daley has denied any knowledge of corruption in his administration, but Monday’s sentences are the latest blow in an investigation that has struck at the heart of his political machine.

In the courtroom packed tightly with supporters of the four defendants, there were starkly different views of how serious a crime–if any crime at all–was committed when the men helped pro-Daley political workers get city jobs.

With his own courtroom overflowing, Coar moved the hearing to the large ceremonial courtroom in the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse to accommodate about 200 supporters of the four defendants.

Family members, friends, priests and co-workers of the defendants faced Coar as he sat alone on a curved bench designed for a large panel of judges. Coar acknowledged the crowd and the “incredible number” of letters he received on behalf of the defendants.

But he also sounded a warning to those who believed the men did not deserve their fates or that they had not committed crimes. “A jury has found otherwise,” he said.

The tense crowd listened as Sorich’s lead attorney, Thomas Anthony Durkin, returned to themes he sounded throughout the trial–that overzealous prosecutors want to criminalize politics and topple Daley.
 Excerpt from Federal Indictment charging  Sorich rewarded political cronies with City jobs and promotions in violation of civil service laws.

 Violations: Title 18, United States Code,
 17.                   It was part of the scheme that: 
A. SORICH together with Individual A and others, engaged in a systematic effort to provide financial benefits, in the form of City jobs and promotions, in exchange for campaign work. In addition, in some cases SORICH and others rewarded other favored persons and groups with City jobs and promotions. As part of this scheme, SORICH (and, beginning in or about 2001 when he assumed his role at IGA, McCARTHY) corrupted the City’s personnel process by directing the awarding of jobs and promotions in non-policymaking positions to candidates pre-selected by IGA through sham and rigged interviews coordinated by Personnel Directors and conducted by Interviewers.
B.         Campaign Coordinators met with SORICH, and beginning in 2001 with McCARTHY, to submit the names of workers for whom the Campaign Coordinators sought favorable jobs or promotions. SORICH and McCARTHY accepted the submitted names and weighed competing requests from Campaign Coordinators. 
C.         SORICH and McCARTHY selected those candidates who were to receive jobs or promotions, in return for campaign-related work and in some cases because of other favored status. SORICH and McCARTHY forwarded these names to Personnel Directors to award positions to those individuals pre-selected by IGA. SORICH and McCARTHY knew and understood that the pre-selected candidates would be awarded positions through the false and fraudulent manipulation of interview scoring and without regard to written criteria in place to evaluate candidates for no policymaking positions. 

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