The attorney tried barking like a dog during the trial, but that didn’t work.
On Friday, the lawyer for Eugene Mullins — Todd Stroger’s onetime chief media spokesman — tried begging to save her client from prison, even offering to let him serve his sentence in her own house.
“I’m begging you, in the name of God, to give this man an opportunity,” attorney Brunell Donald-Kyei told U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve in a whispered plea.
It didn’t work.
After listening to a speech that referenced “The Twilight Zone” TV show, vampires and the Salem witch trials, St. Eve still handed Mullins a 51-month prison term.
“Mr. Mullins, you were a public official. … You should have acted in the public’s interest, but you didn’t,” the judge said.
Evidence at his weeklong trial showed Mullins, a 49-year-old South Sider and former Chicago cop, pocketed nearly $35,000 in kickbacks in return for steering four $25,000 county contracts to unqualified pals who never planned to do the work taxpayers were paying them for back in 2010.
Donald-Kyei has said Mullins was innocent and was being punished for refusing to turn on and provide false testimony against Stroger, the former Cook County Board president who Mullins says was the feds’ real target.
The attorney repeated that claim Friday — a claim unleashed in a booming and, at times, tearful defense.
Donald-Kyei described Mullins — who thanked St. Eve, but otherwise didn’t speak Friday — as a “great man” who only ever wanted to help people. And what he got in return, was a parade of prosecution witnesses telling “bald-faced” lies.
“When I think about this case, I’m reminded of the Salem witch trials,” she said, likening Mullins’ betrayers to the hysterical young girls of 1692, crying out, “That’s the witch! That’s the witch!”
At trial, Donald-Kyei’s theatrics included loud barking — part of an elaborate metaphor for what she called the “lies” of the government witnesses.
Donald-Kyei also said the $35,000 in kickbacks was, in the context of a $3 billion Cook County budget, a tiny amount.
St. Eve called that remark “insulting.”
“Any amount taken is public corruption,” the judge said.
As she announced the sentence, Mullins had his back to the gallery, which included his four siblings and their children. He turned to smile at them.
On his way out of the courthouse, Mullins insisted he didn’t want to talk, instead handing reporters several documents. One of those, entitled “Affidavit of Todd Stroger,” appeared to suggest Mullins had limited power in the Stroger administration.
Stroger, who was not charged in the case, has denied any wrongdoing.
The feds said the charges stemmed from a joint investigation with state officials that previously led to the indictment of Stroger’s one-time deputy chief of staff, Carla Oglesby, who was charged in 2010 with steering no-bid, no-work contracts to her own firm and that of her pals. She was found guilty of theft and money laundering charges and is awaiting sentencing.
Mullins is set to report to federal prison in June.
Contributing: Steve Warmbir