3/22/2016Government To Seize Red Light Camera Bribery Cash
Prosecutors ask judge to confiscate $680,107 in bribes that Redflex Traffic Systems handed to a Chicago, Illinois transportation official.
The US Department of Justice wants to make sure that red light camera bribery does not pay. A federal judge will decide next week whether former Chicago, Illinois deputy transportation chief John Bills should be fined $680,107 for taking bribes from Redflex Traffic Systems. The Australian firm supplied the cash in return for the official's assistance in expanding the Windy City's red light camera program into the largest of its kind in the world. Bills, for his part, is asking Judge Virginia M. Kendall to set him free.
A jury in January found Bills guilty on corruption charges, which, under federal statutes, entitles the government to seize any profits that can be reasonably traced to this crime. US Attorney Zachary T. Fardon provided extensive banking and real estate records to establish the total amount sought.
Bagman Martin O'Malley distributed $557,000 in Redflex cash to Bills, by, for example, handing envelopes to him under the table during lunch meetings. O'Malley also wrote $24,950 in checks to pay off various debts that Bills had accumulated. Bills even paid $178,940 for a condominium in Arizona for Bills to use, covering the cost of all repairs and condo fees. The government agreed to confiscate $98,837 in proceeds from the sale of the condo from O'Malley, not from Bills. Finally, Redflex supplied Bills with $18,054 in trips, meals hotels and rental cars.
If Judge Kendall agrees with the prosecution's tally, any property or other assets belonging to Bills could be taken and sold to satisfy the monetary judgment. In representing Bills, attorney Nishay K. Sanan filed a motion asking Judge Kendall to throw out the jury's verdict because it was based on evidence from professional con artists.
"A guilty verdict can only be sustained if there was sufficient credible and probative evidence which proved beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant Bills was guilty of each element of the crimes charged," Sanan wrote. "The government relied almost exclusively on three witnesses in this case: Karen Finley, Martin O'Malley, and Aaron Rosenberg. As was established during both the direct and cross-examinations of Finley and Rosenberg, both are admitted liars and had previously lied under oath. Although O'Malley had not previously lied under oath, his story was largely unsupported by anything other than his own self-serving statements. Defendant Bill's position was, and is, that these three witnesses are inherently unreliable."
Sanan also repeated his argument that negative pre-trial publicity unduly influenced the jurors. Unless Judge Kendall changes her mind on that subject, Bills will be sentenced on June 20. Karen Finley will receive her sentence on the following day. John Raphael will be sentenced for his role in the Ohio bribery scandal on March 30.