Sorich's Supreme Denial

Appeal by Daley patronage chief fails

Somewhat quietly amidst the rest of the news this week, the convicted former patronage aide of Mayor Daley, along with two others, saw their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of their corruption cases rejected.

The denial puts to bed their arguments that they were being prosecuted for allowable political practices - and that they couldn't possibly be guilty because no money was found to have made its way into their pockets.

"No, fraud isn't 'just politics'," the Tribune editorial page said after the ruling on Monday, in one of the few commentaries to be found.

Daley appeared to be steaming about the ruling yesterday as he blasted federal authorities for not doing a better job prosecuting drug dealers.

"Daley dodged when asked if he thought the federal case against his longtime patronage chief Robert Sorich and two other former aides represents a good use of law enforcement power and resources," the Tribune reported.

"The three were convicted in 2006 of rigging the city hiring and promotions process in favor of campaign workers who showed loyalty to the mayor and his favorite political candidates. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider their appeal.

"The mayor quickly cut off a question about the patronage case, saying, 'They can prosecute any case they want. It doesn't matter'."

The prosecution now holds, vindicated by the highest court in the land. Only Antonin Scalia dissented.

"Carried to its logical conclusion," Scalia wrote, according to the Los Angeles Times, "[the 'honest services fraud' provision ] would seemingly cover a salaried employee's phoning in sick to go to a ball game . . .

"[T]his expansive phrase invites abuse by headline-grabbing prosecutors in pursuit of local officials, state legislators and corporate CEOs who engage in any manner of unappealing or ethically questionable conduct . . . It is simply not fair to prosecute someone for a crime that has not been defined until the judicial decision that sends him to jail."

According to UPI, Scalia also wrote, quoting Justice Hugo Black, that "It may be true that petitioners here, like the defendants in other 'honest services' cases, have acted improperly. But 'Bad men, like good men, are entitled to be tried and sentenced in accordance with law,'

But Scalia could not find a single justice to side with him.

"The others on the Court did not say why review had been denied," Lyle Denniston writes at SCOTUSBlog. "But the Justice Department, in urging the Court not to hear this case, dismissed the differing interpretations of the law by lower courts, saying the petition here overstated the differences.  Moreover, the Department contended, this particular case was not a 'suitable vehicle' to consider the scope of the law or its constitutionality since any error on the honest-services theory of prosecution would be harmless since the convictions were based on another, independent theory.The Justice Department also noted that the Court had repeatedly declined to hear the same issues raised in this petition."

Here's a PDF of Scalia's opinion and the court order.

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