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Al Sanchez Sentenced, Still Says He's Innocent

By Kevin Robinson in News on Feb 4, 2011 2:00PM

Photo by Doc18. [Ed. Note: No muppets have been accused of wrong doing.]
The political drama that ended the Hispanic Democratic Organization's grip on city hiring ended yesterday, with the sentencing of long-time HDO chief and former Streets and San commissioner Al Sanchez, who was convicted of four counts of mail fraud last year. U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman handed down a sentence of 2-1/2 years in federal prison for Sanchez. But he didn't go quietly.

“I wished someone had stepped forward and said ‘this is the process, I didn’t make it up,’” Sanchez told the Sun-Times. “Every commissioner should be sentenced up there with me.”

Sanchez also took the opportunity to slam the recent debacle on Lake Shore Drive during Tuesday night's blizzard. “I’m going to have to be able to keep Lake Shore Drive open” and keep the side streets clear of snow. “That was my goal,” he said (not building a patronage army of city workers). “You never want to lose Lake Shore Drive. That’s like our state highway,” Sanchez told the press outside of court. He said that the drive should have been cleared more quickly, and said that he thought trucks were taking too long to return with salt. “Lake Shore Drive should never, ever, be closed,” he said.

Mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle took Sanchez's sentencing as an opportunity to point out the patronage connections of two of his opponents in the race, Rahm Emanuel and Gery Chico. “I’m using today’s sentencing of Mr. Sanchez to remind everyone that we have a long history in Chicago of patronage politics,” del Valle told the Sun-Times. “Rahm Emanuel would have had a difficult time getting elected congressman without the patronage armies helping him,” del Valle said. “HDO worked in the Emanuel campaign for congress in 2000. (Sewer Department official Mary Jo) Falcon testified she orchestrated a show of support for Emanuel at (convicted former Daley Patronage Chief Robert) Sorich’s request. These people demonstrated a show of support for Emanuel, and Emanuel is, of course, supporting the status quo.” As for Chico, del Valle said he "was chief of staff (to Daley) when HDO was first established in ‘93. There were a lot of city contractors who contributed to HDO to build the war chest. He went to a lot of HDO events that I wasn’t at.” Both Chio and Emanuel denied any HDO influence in their political careers.