For many, corruption and Illinois go hand in hand. From the convictions of ex-Governors Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan to the more recent charges against ex-congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, Illinois has become the poster child for “back-door politics.”
It is because of such transgressions – and the frequency with which they have occurred – that Chicago was voted the most corrupt city in the nation earlier this year.
Not only has corruption tainted the city’s image, but it has also influenced current city and state leaders in their decision-making processes, as Governor Pat Quinn showed in his veto of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s casino plan.
Quinn believed that such a plan could not be properly regulated without falling victim to mob control and corruption – illustrating a lack of faith held by not only city and state officials, but by the entire country.
This corruption has trickled down from the highest political figures in the state to top law enforcement officials, as evidenced by the alleged and ruled cover-ups of Richard Vanecko and Anthony Abbate, respectfully.
In 2007, ex-Chicago police officer, Anthony Abbate, was off-duty the night he was videotaped assaulting bartender Karolina Obrycka for refusing to serve him more alcohol. At the trial, Abbate had claimed self-defense in the attack.
In 2009, Abbate was found guilty of aggravated battery. He was sentenced to two years probation and anger management classes. He was eventually fired from the Chicago Police Department. The ruling, however, would not end there.
Obrycka filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department, alleging a “code of silence” cover-up of the attack. In November, the jurors ruled in her favor and awarded her $850,000.
This notion of the Chicago Police Department’s “code of silence” has surfaced again in the case of Richard “R.J.” Vanecko – nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
In 2004, Vanecko’s party crossed paths with 21-year-old David Koschman’s after a night of drinking on Division Street. A confrontation ensued, supposedly between Koschman and Vanecko, resulting in one fatal punch that sent Koschman to the ground.
The US Supreme Court’s decision to block an appeal upholding the illegality of recording on-duty Illinois police officers on top of the Abbate decision and Vanecko’s indictment are signs that change is on the horizon. Whether these developments can truly halt Illinois’s culture of corruption will be the biggest concern for the state’s future.