When U.S. District Court Judge Milton Shadur sentenced former Ald. Eddie Vrdolyak to just five years' probation for pleading guilty to mail fraud in a real estate kickback scheme, wizened Chicagoans figured the fix was in.
After all, federal prosecutors had asked for a 41-month prison term. And this was the political legend known as Fast Eddie, a man who seemed to have a hand in everything but never leave a fingerprint.
But Vrdolyak may do time yet.
Posner is on a three-judge panel hearing prosecutors' appeal of the sentence.
"What significance does a sentence like probation have?" Posner said. "It's nothing."
Shadur's sentence provoked such suspicion about the slippery and well-connected Vrdolyak that the judge publicly defended himself, citing sentencing guidelines, what he saw as the lack of a financial loss to anyone in the case, and letters of support (by such awesome character witnesses as Brian Urlacher and Tank Johnson) generated by Vrdolyak.
Posner took Shadur to task for relying in any way on those letters.
"It's ridiculous," Posner said. "A person like this could generate a thousand letters."
And he might start getting them in prison.