Scott Fawell joined WGN's anchors yesterday for the entire one hour broadcast of Blagojevich's farewell speech. Fawell was chief of staff to George Ryan, Illinois' (other) imprisoned former governor and served many years in federal prison for his role in a scheme that traded bribes for illegal commercial drivers licenses. A recipient of one of those licenses crashed into a minivan and killed six children. Scott Fawell was more than happy to talk about the daily routine of prison and its dreary mental effects, but he dodged every question about whether he came to grips with his wrongdoing while in prison. You can watch Fawell yuck it up on WGN here or read a more detailed account of his trial in Chicago Magazine.
WGN also featured an interview with 89 year old Dan Walker, another governor who served time in prison (though not for any crimes related to his time in public office). I can't find video of the interview, but Walker spoke at length about the indignities of his incarceration. Walker once wrote to his congressman, but had the letter intercepted by the warden. The warden teased Walker about his once powerful position and ripped the letter to pieces in front of Walker to illustrate just how far he had fallen. The warden also reassigned the former governor from a desk job to picking up cigarette butts for the duration of his sentence simply because the two men went to rival colleges.
Today, former Cicero town president Betty Loren-Maltese who famously robbed Cicero to the tune of $12 million called into WFLD to give her input on what Blagojevich faces in prison:
“He’s going to have to change his attitude because if he doesn’t, another inmate will,” Loren-Maltese said. “For sure, the officers will let him know he’s nothing but a number and he’s the property of prisons. ...I think still think he comes off as arrogant,” she said. “Yesterday, I watched all the media coverage, and he had me for awhile, but then it turned political and almost into a campaign speech."
Finally, the Sun-Times quoted Jim Laski, former city clerk of Chicago and convicted felon in its write up of today's events:
“He’s going to be doing a lot of, ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir,’...It’s a humbling, humiliating experience. But you have to take it.”
In any other state, a corruption conviction would be enough to banish someone from the public sphere entirely. It's a bitter twist of irony that the steady stream of indictments gives previously convicted officials the opportunity to return to the public eye as commentators. Illinois' endless corruption gives the formerly corrupt an opportunity to stay relevant.
The trend shows no signs of ending. Just this week State Rep Derrick Smith was in court on charges that he accepted bribe money. Cook County Commissioner Bill Beavers will also face his own corruption trial soon. One can only wonder who will be staring down an indictment 14 years from now. Whoever that person is, he or she will be the launching pad for Rod Blagojevich's triumphant return to the public stage.