ROCKFORD – The Illinois Municipal League is adding its voice to the chorus of those opposed to an early release of the woman who perpetrated the largest municipal theft in U.S. history.
Former Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell was sentenced Feb. 14, 2013, to 19 years and 7 months in federal prison for stealing close to $54 million over 20 years from her hometown.
She is seeking an early release from Pekin Federal Correctional Center, citing poor health and a fear of contracting COVID-19.
The letter to U.S. District Court Judge Philip Reinhard, who sentenced her, is signed by IML Executive Director Brad Cole. In it he writes:
“Despite monetary recovery from multiple sources, the residents of Dixon will never fully recover the financial losses from this unprecedented betrayal of trust. Neither will the elected and appointed officials from throughout Illinois and our nation who carry an undeserved burden with them from Crundwell’s criminal behavior under the guise of public service.”
Cole called the irony of her request at this time, after the economic hardships she wrought on Dixon, “unmatched.”
“Now, through an economic collapse of possibly never-before-seen proportions, impacting every level of society and government, she seeks compassion over worry for her ‘deteriorating health condition and danger of the COVID-19 pandemic.’
“I am not the lease apologetic to state, especially because of this second, current financial storm being weathered by the city of Dixon, that Crundwell fully deserves to complete every last day of her original sentence.
“Indeed, it may be the only thing she ever rightfully earned in her entire life.”
He noted that “this may be the first, and hopefully will be the last time” the IML ever has weighed in on a criminal sentencing request.
“On behalf of the honest, trustworthy and hardworking elected and appointed officials of every community in Illinois, we request that you deny Crundwell’s attempt to diminish her sentence.”
The letter is dated May 12, 4 days before Crundwell withdrew her motion for early release to pursue her request through less public administrative means. It was filed and added to the court record Tuesday.
She can refile her request in federal court if she fails to get relief through the 4-step Bureau of Prison’ Administrative Remedy Program.
Crundwell is asking to be released in the wake of Attorney General William Barr’s March 26 memo to the Bureau of Prisons, advising that inmates deemed high risk, based on Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 guidelines, be released to home confinement if they meet certain criteria under the federal First Step Act.
She is citing health issues that include chronic hypertension, high cholesterol, chronic pain from severe scoliosis, and a pinched sciatic nerve in her lower back, a hip replacement 3 years ago caused by arthritis, and damaged kidneys, and a mass removed from under her arm on April 20.
The city of Dixon also is adamantly opposed to any kind of sentencing relief, and said so in its own letter in early May to Pekin prison Warden Frederick Entzel, to whom Crundwell first made her request on April 22.
“Rita lived a life of luxury while Dixon’s roadways crumbled, public infrastructure was neglected, public safety services were denied necessary funding and city employees took mulitiyear pay freezes,” City Manager Danny Langloss wrote.
“The damage she has done, both financially and psychologically, was and remains unprecedented. Early release of Rita Crundwell would destroy trust and confidence in our great judicial system, send a dangerous message to any public official considering theft, and reignite the rage and anger that our Dixon community has worked so hard to overcome.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle
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