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Former Chicago alderman gets year in prison for misusing ward charitable fund

Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO -- Another convicted Chicago alderman is headed to prison.

Former Alderman Willie Cochran was sentenced to one year in prison Monday by U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso for using a ward charity fund like his personal piggy bank, including paying for gambling trips, fancy meals and accessories for his Mercedes-Benz.

After court, a defiant Cochran accused federal prosecutors of lying and exaggerating allegations of misconduct against him, saying that pleading guilty "was a mistake."

"There's no justice in this," Cochran told reporters in the lobby of the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse. "I'm not happy about it, my family is not happy about it. But you know, the fact of the matter is it's never gonna be right. Not under these circumstances. And everybody should be concerned because ... the Justice Department is allowing their prosecutors to tell lies and hide evidence."

It was a far different tone then the one Cochran struck in court not long before. In a 10-minute speech, the former alderman apologized quietly for his crimes, saying he felt "awkward and ashamed" to have let his family and constituents down.

"Quite a day, quite a day," said Cochran, shaking his head while seated at the defense table reading from a sheet of paper. "Quite a time period, going through all of this. I never thought I'd be making a statement like this under these circumstances."

 

In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso said Cochran's crimes added his name to "the long and pathetic tradition of public corruption in this city and state."

"Like others before him, Mr. Cochran gave into temptation," the judge said. "He gave into greed."

Federal prosecutors had sought up to 1 1/2 years in prison for Cochran, who pleaded guilty in March to one count of wire fraud, ending his tenure on the City Council.

By contrast, Cochran's lawyers asked the judge for probation with six months of home incarceration.

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