Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Convicted vote thief joined by top local Dems at his pre-prison going away party

"Having been there -- I repeat, having been there -- I do not wish jail for any person." Former Ill. Governor Dan Walker, discussing last week's conviction of George Ryan.

Earlier this month, as Cal Skinner reminded me, there was a pre-prison going away party for ex-East St. Louis Democratic Chairman Charlie Powell. By no means am I claiming Powell is completely naive about what occurs in prison, but having such a party, and worse, the growing tolerance of corruption in Illinois, is troubling. The event was billed as a birthday party, but since Powell will be in the "house with many doors" when his birthday rolls around, the party-organizers put together a "two-fer" celebration.

Last week, Powell began serving his 21 month sentence in federal prison for his role in a vote buying scandal.

From the Belleville News-Democrat last week:

St. Clair County Circuit Judges John Baricevic and Milton Wharton attended on the evening of April 7 at Club Illusion in East St. Louis as did Associate Judge Laninya Cason and an estimated 250 other party-goers.

They had come to wish a happy birthday to a politician who, even after being convicted of vote fraud, was able to influence county politics. St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and his wife, Erin, also were at the party as was Assessor Gordon Bush and prominent Belleville attorney Bruce Cook, who defended Powell during his June trial for conspiracy to commit vote fraud.

Wharton said that while he was not a friend of Powell's, he attended the celebration because Powell "has done significant things for the community." Wharton mentioned neighborhood improvement projects and Powell's boarding house for destitute men.

Powell is living at a different kind of boarding house now.

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