"Fast Eddie" veered off the road Friday, taking a 10 month detour to a federal penitentiary.
Former Chicago alderman Ed Vrdoyak was sentenced for his role in a kickback scheme involving a North Shore medical school.
But while prosecutors hoped to see the once-powerful alderman locked away for three and a half years, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly sentenced him to far less than that.
"He is very happy that it's over, and that he can get on with his life," said defense attorney Michael Monico. "Ed Vrdolyak is an amazing person. He's a very positive person."
The onetime leader of the infamous "Vrdolyak 21," the former alderman was seen by many as a malevolent overlord of the city council block which attempted to thwart Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington, at every turn. But on Friday, "Fast Eddie," as he was known to reporters and enemies alike, seemed rumpled and chastened as he made one last plea to keep his freedom.
"I'm sorry," he told the judge, reading from a wrinkled piece of paper. "I made a stupid mistake. It was dumb. It was stupid. And I was wrong."
Vrdolyak's sentence is less than a fourth of what prosecutors said would have been appropriate punishment.
"We believed the sentence we argued for would be appropriate here," said prosecutor Chris Niewoehner. "That a sentence of three and a half years would have been appropriate given the scale of the crime at issue."
Vrdolyak did not speak to reporters after court, but his lawyer suggested the case had taken on overblown importance because of his client's colorful past.
"I don't think the government would have been this harsh in their pleadings, and in their argument, if his name wasn't Vrdolyak," Monico said. But prosecutors had argued to the judge that the crimes were serious, and a message needed to be sent to powerful insiders that there were consequences for wrongdoing.
"If he was remorseful," Niewoehner said, "perhaps he shouldn't have done what he did at the beginning."
"Ed pled guilty," said Monico. "We accept the guilty plea. We accept the consequences of it. And we accept this sentence."
Vrdolyak is expected to surrender to authorities in mid-January. In addition to his jail sentence, he was ordered to serve five months of work release, and five months home confinement.
He pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiring with Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science board member Stuart Levine. The two plotted to split a $1.5 million kickback from selling property owned by the university. Vrdolyak later pled guilty to federal charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud and mail fraud.
He'd previously received probation for the offense, but an outraged U.S. Attorney's office appealed, and the appellate court ordered that he be resentenced.