doc marten store Bagman in red light cameras scandal given 6 months in prison
The admitted bagman who funneled more than half a million dollars in bribes to the City Hall insider at the center of the red light camera scandal was sentenced to six months in prison Monday by a judge who said she tried to balance his fragile health with the extent of his misconduct.
Martin O’Malley, 75, had provided key testimony at John Bills’ trial, telling jurors he passed envelopes stuffed with thousands in cash at a time to the city official at Manny’s deli and other restaurants during the decadelong conspiracy.
Bills also accepted lavish vacations, meals, a Mercedes Benz, a boat, hotel stays and an Arizona condominium purchased by O’Malley on Bills’ behalf. In all, federal agents put the total tally of bribes at more than $2 million, one of the priciest schemes in Chicago’s storied history of public corruption.
The charges stemmed from a four year Chicago Tribune investigation that exposed the scheme, as well as the mismanagement, failed oversight and dubious safety record of the $600 million red light camera program.
The bribe was paid over lunch at Schaller’s Pump, a Bridgeport neighborhood institution and political stronghold across the street from the 11th Ward Democratic headquarters. District Judge Virginia Kendall praised O’Malley for his quick acknowledgment of guilt after federal agents approached him three years ago, his ongoing cooperation with investigators and his years of community service as a sponsor to hundreds of men in Alcoholics Anonymous.
She noted that Bills had first approached O’Malley at an AA meeting with a job prospect with Redflex as part of the scheme back in 2002. At the time, O’Malley was unemployed and caring for an ill wife who died in 2012.
“He preyed upon you in an AA meeting,” the judge told O’Malley while referring to Bills, whom she sentenced late last month to 10 years in prison after his conviction on 20 counts of bribery, conspiracy, extortion and fraud. “He chose you for those weaknesses.”
John Bills, the insider convicted in one of the most brazen City Hall corruption cases in Chicago’s storied history of graft, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday by a federal judge who decried the damage done to public faith in government.
Bills’ voice broke with emotion as he acknowledged.
(David Kidwell and Jason Meisner)
Still, Kendall rejected house arrest for O’Malley, saying he played an integral role in “one of the most lucrative abuses of public trust in the history of the city of Chicago.”
“That crime could not have continued for 10 years without your involvement,” said Kendall, who called the six month prison term the “appropriate balance of the harm to the people . your extraordinary help to others and the seriousness of this case.”
The judge said she also considered O’Malley’s troubled childhood and fragile health. He suffers from diabetes, coronary artery disease and has worn a pacemaker since his arrest in 2012,
according to his attorney, Michael Gillespie.
In a brief statement to the judge, O’Malley, of south suburban Worth, accepted blame for his role as the conduit for cash bribes and gifts between Redflex and Bills.
“I stand before you a guilty man,” he told Kendall. “There is no excuse for what I have done. It’s deplorable. . Not a day has gone by in the past three years where I do not think about the horrible decision I made.”
O’Malley, who showed no emotion after Kendall imposed the short prison term, was ordered to report to prison Jan. 3.
The former Redflex chief executive who approved most of the bribes, Karen Finley, is set to be sentenced in November. She, too, pleaded guilty and testified for the government at Bills’ trial.
O’Malley, who was hired by Redflex after Bills told him to answer a advertisement for a Chicago consultant, testified at Bills’ trial in January that he funneled as much as $2,000 in cash to Bills for each of the 384 cameras installed by Redflex throughout Chicago. O’Malley said he would deliver the bribe cash in Manila envelopes, often over lunch at such well known restaurants as Manny’s and Schaller’s Pump, a Bridgeport neighborhood institution and political stronghold across the street from the 11th Ward Democratic headquarters.
Bills, a longtime political operative of powerful House Speaker Michael Madigan, has maintained his innocence since the Tribune first broke the story of graft in October 2012. At trial, his attorney told jurors that the bribes really went to politicians and their favored lobbyists.
Bills, a 32 year city employee, rose through the ranks as a member of Madigan’s patronage army in the 13th Ward political organization. As the No. 2 in charge of the city’s Transportation Department, Bills was handed the task of overseeing the traffic camera program, placing cameras and managing the city’s contract with Redflex.
Within months after the first Tribune stories, Mayor Rahm Emanuel moved to fire Redflex and transfer the program to a new vendor. Still, Emanuel’s administration has filed suit against Redflex seeking more than $350 million in damages,
three times the $120 million the company received to operate the program.