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If Pritzker is Elected, Would There be a Possible Indictment for new Illinois Governor?

Jim Ridings 1 November 2018 No Comment

If JB Pritzker is elected governor, and is indicted shortly after taking office for a crime he committed before becoming governor, it would not be the first time it happened in Illinois.

The Inspector General said Pritzker’s act of tearing out the toilets in his Gold Coast mansion to make it “uninhabitable” and obtain a tax reduction of $330,000 was a “scheme to defraud” the county. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Fox said she will investigate to determine whether this was a crime.

Small

A similar scenario happened in the 1920s when Governor Len Small was indicted and went on trial for embezzling between one and two million dollars while he was state treasurer.

Small, of Kankakee, was elected state treasurer in 1916. In those days before federal deposit insurance, the treasurer spread out the state’s deposits among 300 to 400 banks. Small put half of the state’s money in one bank.  

The trouble was, it was a bank that did not exist.

Small put the money in the Grant Park Bank. It existed only on paper. Small and his partner, State Sen. Edward C. Curtis, loaned the money to Chicago meat packers Swift, Armour and Cudahy at 6 to 8 per cent interest. He paid the state 2 to 3 per cent.

Small was elected governor in 1920. Edward Miller was elected state treasurer at the same time. When Miller looked at the books, he took his evidence to Attorney General Edward Brundage. Small was indicted and went on trial.

Small was happy and jovial during his trial. That’s because he knew the fix was in. The prosecution put on its case for six weeks. When it came time for the governor’s turn, the defense rested without putting on a single witness, without introducing any evidence or presenting any argument.

No defense was necessary. The jury already had been bribed by hoodlums sent by Al Capone and Johnny Torrio.

A not guilty verdict was returned within 90 minutes. Eight jurors soon got state jobs.

Capone’s involvement was in return for favors done by the governor, particularly in the sale of pardons and paroles. Harry Guzik, brother of top Mob figure Jake Guzik, ran brothels in Stickney for the Mob. Harry and his wife Alma were convicted of holding a teenage girl from Monee in forced prostitution. They were sentenced to the penitentiary, but they were pardoned by Governor Small before spending one day in jail. Small also commuted the death sentence, and later granted a full pardon, to Ignatz Potz, a Capone bootlegger who murdered a Winthrop Harbor policeman in cold blood.

Two gangsters and a member of Small’s jury went on trial for fixing the jury. They also were acquitted.

Small beat the criminal charges, but a civil trial found him guilty. He had to repay the state $650,000 of the money he stole. The Illinois Supreme Court also declared the Grant Park Bank was a sham.

This incident only scratches the surface of the corruption of Len Small, who was one of the most corrupt politicians in American history.

The polls show Pritzker leading Governor Rauner. Should the scenario of a governor being prosecuted for a fraud committed before he took office, it would not be a precedent.

However, this time, the governor will not have Al Capone to fix the jury.

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Jim Ridings is a former reporter and the author of two dozen books of Illinois history, including “Len Small: Governors and Gangsters.”

 

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