'Hail Mary pass': Chicago banker, former Trump adviser makes last minute plea for probation

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Friday, February 23, 2024
Chicago banker, former Trump adviser makes last minute probation plea
A Chicago banker and former Trump adviser, Stephen Calk, has made a last minute plea for probation as he faces a one-year prison sentence.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Facing a one-year prison sentence for trying to buy his way into a cabinet post, Stephen Calk is trying to use a new law to give him a jail break.

Calk was convicted of conspiring to bribe his way into a top White House appointment in the Trump administration.

The ABC7 I-Team has learned the once-prominent Chicago banker is throwing a Hail Mary pass to stay out of prison.

Calk is the founder of Chicago's Federal Savings Bank and was an economic adviser to Donald Trump's 2016 campaign for president. He's now facing a one-year prison sentence for trying to buy his way into a Trump cabinet post.

In 2019, the Chicago bank chairman was found guilty of greasing the way for $16-million in high-risk personal loans to then Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Calk, at the time, was chairman at The Federal Savings Bank on Chicago's near West Side. In exchange, Calk wanted Manafort's help in landing Secretary of the Army or some other top cabinet post. That didn't happen, and Calk was charged and convicted of federal felonies.

In a letter and motion from Calk's attorneys to Judge Lorna Schofield obtained by the I-Team, the defrocked Chicago banker is asking that his year-long prison sentence be cut to probation "Based on recent changes to U.S. Sentencing Guidelines."

"And what the amendment provides is that for first time offenders with no violent crime behind them, and a non-violent offense, they can be eligible for a better sentence than they might have under the older versions of the guidelines," said former federal prosecutor and ABC7 chief legal analyst, Gil Soffer.

He said a new sentence isn't automatic for Calk just because federal sentencing guidelines have loosened for certain non-violent offenders with no criminal histories. However, Soffer believes Calk could well qualify for a less-severe sentence, just as the prison doors were about to open for him.

"He'd be otherwise be at the end of the road and looking at the beginning to serve a year in prison, that was the term that was imposed on him. He has a hope now, even if not of getting all the way down to probation," Soffer told the I-Team. "Oftentimes, we see a Hail Mary pass for defendants before they're finally forced to go into jail. This is a little better than a Hail Mary pass."

Late word now just in from D.C. District Court: the judge in Calk's case is ordering government attorneys to respond to the request for a new sentence under the guideline rule change. Prosecutors have until next Wednesday, which means the court isn't simply throwing it out, and that the ex-Chicago banker has hope of obtaining a get out of jail card.