With three former Illinois governors—George Ryan, Dan Walker and Otto Kerner Jr., being incarcerated for various misdoings, and another governor (Rod Blagojevich) fighting to stay out of the prison’s “governor’s wing,” it’s a statement of fact that the state of Illinois has a long legacy of public corruption. In fact, according to MSNBC, at least 79 elected Illinois officials have been convicted of wrongdoing since 1972.
Make that 80. It may not be extraordinary that the former mayor of Niles, Ill., was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison for taking thousands of dollars in exchange for steering businesses to a friend's insurance agency.
What may surprise you, however, is felon’s age. Nicholas Blase, who was mayor for 47 years, is now 81 years old. Blase could have gotten more than five years in prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud and dodging taxes, but instead, he will only have to serve about 10 months with time off for good behavior.
"I don't want Nick Blase to die in prison,'' U.S. District Judge Wayne Andersen said in a statement. Blase has been in frail health lately, and his doctor wouldn't offer assurances he would survive even two years in prison, Andersen said.
The courtroom was packed with friends and well wishers as Blase admitted in a husky voice that he had himself to blame for being headed for prison at an advanced age.
"I took money I had no business taking,'' Blase said. "I knew I had no business taking it as I did.'' He said he was "undone by my own greed.''
Blase admitted using the power of the mayor's office to steer business to a friend's insurance agency for years, and that thousands of dollars were directed back to him through a dummy company in return.
Some Niles residents referred to the shell company as "Mayor Blase's insurance agency,'' according to prosecutors, who had asked Andersen to impose a 41- to 51-month sentence, reports the Associated Press.
"We did so because of the serious nature of the crime and the message that we hoped a jail sentence would send to current or future elected officials that they not use their public office for private gain,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Collins, the lead prosecutor, said after the sentencing.
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