Sanchez Gets Cross

Streets and San man stumbles on stand

The decision by former Streets and San Commissioner Al Sanchez to take the stand in his own behalf on Tuesday in his federal job-rigging trial started out pleasantly enough, with a touching tale of young Al as civil rights activist motivated to break things open for Hispanics.

It was on the cross-examination that jurors were reminded why they were there.

- "Sanchez," the Sun-Times reports, "loudly repeated himself, talking over questions posed by the lead prosecutor in the case."

Poor form, Al.

- "Sanchez avoided answering one question by criticizing the prosecutor for questioning the work ethic of Streets and San employees - even though he hadn't."

Juries notice evasions, Al.

- "Sanchez did not answer when [assistant U.S. attorney Manish] Shah asked whether it was part of Hispanic empowerment to influence City Hall hiring."

You should have been prepared to answer this sort of question, Al. Maybe a simple "No."

- "Pressed on whether HDO had a say in hiring, Sanchez said: "It almost makes it sound illegal . . . and I don't want to answer something illegal."

Yikes, that one will probably get talked about in the jury room.

- "Sanchez didn't give a clear explanation why his underlings mowed his lawn, bought him a snowblower or gave him cash for Christmas, but admitted they had."

Again, Al, why no answer prepared ahead of time for this? Maybe "Because they liked me. I was a good, honest, straightforward boss with integrity, and they appreciated that."

Perhaps the oddest, though strategic, point Sanchez made was that he knew about alleys, but not personnel. He insisted he had no "ultimate hiring authority," instead pointing to the Mayor's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, whose former head, Robert Sorich, is in jail. But even this buck-passing showed its limits.

"Shah [reminded] the jury that IGA was run by Victor Reyes [before Sorich], Sanchez's closest political ally from HDO," Mark Brown writes.

John Kass, though, finds Sanchez almost believable. "Sanchez is just another in a long line of chumbolones falling on the sword for the mayor on patronage abuse," Kass writes. "I saw him falling in federal court Tuesday and thought, without guys like Sanchez, there would be no Daley machine."

But believable doesn't equate with innocent.

"The evidence of the job rigging - and that incompetent HDO-backed truck driver who crushed her co-worker against the telephone pole - is overwhelming," Kass writes.

"Sanchez didn't do himself any favors Tuesday. But he sure did Daley a favor. He didn't put all this where it belongs, in Daley's lap."

Closing arguments are scheduled for today.

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