Former alderman gets 4-year sentence

February 17, 2009 3:22:58 PM PST
A former Chicago alderman is going to prison. Arenda Troutman was sentenced Tuesday to four years behind bars for corruption. Troutman pleaded guilty to mail and tax fraud charges. Prosecutors say she took thousands of dollars in payoffs and campaign money for developers who were seeking political favors.

An emotional Arenda Troutman asked the judge for leniency so she could remain with her three young sons and care for her sick mother. While the judge had the discretion to give Troutman above or below what the federal guidelines call for, Judge Ruben Castillo handed down a sentence that is on the lower end of the guideline range. Troutman's four-year sentence comes two years after she was charged with corruption.

Two years ago, Troutman proclaimed her innocence and vowed to fight. Tuesday, she walked into federal court, stood before a judge and begged for mercy. The former alderman of the 20th Ward tearfully told the court she is not a monster, she is "sorry and regretful."

"People do the wrong things. She's accepted that, she's acknowledged that and she'd like to move on," said Mike Gillespie, Arenda Troutman's attorney.

For what Judge Ruben Castillo described as a five-year crime spree, Troutman admitted to lining her own pockets with thousands of dollars in cash she solicited from developers to back their projects in the 20th Ward.

The evidence against Troutman included FBI tapes where Troutman allegedly compared Chicago politics to prostitution, calling most aldermen "ho's."

"In the midst of so much corruption in the state of Illinois, an environment has been created that she possibly could have gotten caught up in the moment," said Prince Aseile Ben Israel, Troutman friend.

As he handed down a four-year prison sentence, Judge Castillo acknowledged he believes Troutman is a good person and a good mother, but he also called the former alderman a walking contradiction. Castillo told her, "You could have been great, like Harold Washington. Instead, you join the hall of shame."

Troutman is the 12th Chicago alderman convicted of wrongdoing in the last 20 years. The judge and prosecutors know she won't be the last..

"There are very severe consequences, both yourself and your family. In Ms. Troutman's case, her children will be without her for four years. There's a good message to send," said Joe Alesia, assistant U.S. attorney.

While she was very apologetic to the judge, Troutman walked out of court refusing to make any public statements.

Troutman will surrender to federal authorities on June 1. To accommodate her family needs, the judge is requesting Troutman be placed in a prison close to Chicago. Troutman is a single mother.

The case against the former alderman came to light during an investigation into a Chicago street gang. Troutman was accused of having a close relationship with a gang member. Tuesday, Troutman said she never knew some of her friends were unsavory characters.