Editorial | Can't stop it, so why try?

Editorial | Can't stop it, so why try?

Is corruption so deeply embedded in Illinois politics that it's impossible to root out? Maybe.

Defense lawyers, bless their hearts, sometimes have to be creative when it comes to fashioning arguments on a client's behalf.

But Chicago lawyer Christopher Grohman took that necessity at least one step beyond credible when he sought to explain why his client — former city Alderman Willie Cochran — should be spared a prison sentence for mishandling charitable funds.

In arguing for a sentence of probation and home confinement, Grohman argued that "since sending (corrupt alderman) to jail has not done anything to curb Chicago's tidal wave of aldermanic corruption cases, there is no reason to think that sending Mr. Cochran to jail will," Grohman said.

In other words, Chicago's aldermen are so relentlessly corrupt that they are undeterrable. So skip sentences to prison and give them a probation pass.

That's a novel argument, but certainly not a persuasive one.

If Cochran does get a sentence of probation at his June 20 hearing in federal court, it probably won't be because of his lawyer's argument on the futility of deterrence.

Corruption must be hit hard, and if that doesn't work, hit even harder until the danger of betraying the public trust gets the attention of our public servants.

Having said that, Cochran's lawyer is correct when he argued that there are corruption cases and there are corruption cases. The sentence should fit the facts of the crime and be fashioned in the context of the defendant's character and background.

Cochran took $14,000 from a charitable fund he raised money to establish and used the money for personal expenses, including supporting a gambling habit.

That's a crime worthy of punishment. But considered in the context of public corruption, here it falls on the lower end of the spectrum because so many Chicago and state public officials have done so much worse.

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