A federal judge who on Friday sentenced a former Chicago alderman to 10½ years in prison for scheming to accept kickbacks invoked former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's name in saying that some politicians in Illinois aren't getting the message that corrupt behavior ultimately carries a heavy price.
In imposing the sentence on Ambrosio Medrano, U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman said the 60-year-old had followed the mantra of other public officials over the decades in Chicago of asking, "Where's mine?"
Medrano was sentenced for a scheme that involved seeking to accept kickbacks in a deal to sell bandages to public hospitals. Feinerman said Medran's behavior was all the more shocking, because Medrano had spent time behind bars in the `90s as part of the government's Operation Silver Shovel investigation into payoffs of politicians.
"I think he helped a lot of people (as alderman)," said Feinerman. But he was also "looking to feather his nest."
Highlighting what he described as Medrano's audacity, the judge said one meeting with his co-schemers to discuss the crime came on Dec. 7, 2011 -- the day Blagojevich was sentenced for corruption by another federal judge in Chicago.
One prison where the defense said Medrano would like to serve his time is Colorado's Englewood Federal Correctional Institution, where Blagojevich is serving his 14-year sentence for allegations including trying to sell or trade an appointment to President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat. Medrano must report to prison by March 21.
The judge mentioned Blagojevich as he spoke about how too many politicians conclude that any costs they incur from their misdeeds won't outweigh the benefits. Feinerman added that he hoped Medrano's sentence would help "to realign that cost-benefit calculation."
"This corruption has been happening for decades and we've grown accustomed to it," he said. "At some point, you'd think the message would get through."
In a brief statement earlier, Medrano's voice broke as he addressed the court, his friends and family.
"My behavior was unacceptable ... disgraceful," he said. "I am so sorry. I acted foolishly."
Medrano's adult son, Ambrosio Medrano Jr., also stepped before the judge, repeatedly stopping to regain his composure.
"Nobody would like to have a father who is a convicted felon," he said. "But I wouldn't trade my father for anyone."
In calling for a sentence of between 14 and 17½ years, prosecutor Christopher John Stetler told the court Medrano had put his family through similar agony when he was convicted in the `90s.
"He saw that, he felt that, he appreciated that," Stetler said. "And he still went ahead (with the latest act of corruption.)"
Stetler also referred to comments by co-defendant and former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Moreno that he wanted to be paid to use his influence but needed to be careful not to attract the attention of the authorities.
"I don't want to be a hog; I just want to be a pig," prosecutors allege Moreno said in a secretly recorded conversation with the informant. "Hogs get slaughtered, pigs get fat."
Stetler said Medrano was heard in one wiretap making favorable reference to Moreno's comment.
"He sought power so he could, in his own words, strive to be a pig," Stetler told the judge.
As she made her own appeal for leniency, Medrano's wife, Mireya Medrano, turned angrily to prosecutors' table and said they had falsely portrayed her husband as greedy.
"They should be ashamed of themselves," she said, before turning back to the judge. "You should see the whole picture and not (just) what they are portraying."
Medrano's lawyer, Gal Pissetzky, said in a telephone interview later Friday that both he and his client thought the sentence Feinerman imposed Friday was " very fair" and that he didn't intend to appeal.
"Obviously, nobody is happy to get 10½ years in prison," Pissetzky said. "But I, and Mr. Medrano, think it is fair."
Medrano also faces as much as five more years in prison for a conviction in a separate health care case. That sentencing hearing is scheduled for Monday.