Patrick Daley Thompson sentenced to 4 months in federal prison

The sentencing capped a stunning, mad-dash of a federal court case that in 14 months cost Thompson his 11th Ward seat on the City Council, his law license and his freedom. It likely ended his political career and marred not only his reputation, but his famous family’s.

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Patrick Daley Thompson leaves the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Wednesday after being sentenced to four months in prison.

Patrick Daley Thompson leaves the Dirksen Federal Courthouse on Wednesday after being sentenced to four months in prison.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Patrick Daley Thompson, the former Chicago City Council member and heir to the city’s most legendary political dynasty, was sentenced Wednesday to four months in federal prison for tax crimes at the end of an hourslong hearing that left his family in tears.

Thompson stood in the ceremonial courtroom of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, arms crossed, as U.S. District Judge Franklin Valderrama finished delivering the news. When Thompson’s attorney told the judge Thompson hoped to serve his prison sentence by Christmas, a sob rose up from the courtroom gallery.

But later, in a bizarre scene outside the courthouse in Chicago’s Loop, Thompson walked away from the building with a smile, surrounded by family members with long, somber looks on their faces.

It all capped a stunning, mad-dash of a federal court case that in 14 months cost Thompson his 11th Ward seat on the City Council, his law license and his freedom. It likely ended his political career, and marred not only his reputation, but his famous family’s.

Thompson is the grandson of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. His uncle, William Daley, served as chief of staff to President Barack Obama.

“I’ve made mistakes,” Thompson told the judge before he learned his sentence. “Those mistakes have cost me dearly.”

He later left the courthouse without commenting. But his defense attorney, Chris Gair, called Thompson’s prosecution a “grave miscarriage of justice.”

Thompson is at least the sixth Chicago-area politician sentenced to federal prison time this year. He will also be the second member of his family to serve time behind bars in the last decade.

Another grandson of the late Mayor Daley, Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, pleaded guilty eight years ago to involuntary manslaughter, admitting he threw the punch that caused David Koschman’s death in 2004. That was in state court, where a judge ordered Vanecko to spend two months in jail. Now, Thompson must serve twice as much time for cheating on his taxes and lying to federal regulators.

Valderrama ordered Thompson to report to the Bureau of Prisons by Aug. 22, unless room in a facility opens up sooner. Before Wednesday’s hearing ended, Valderrama told Thompson he realized the sentence “will be difficult” for Thompson and his family. Still, he told Thompson, “I wish you well.”

Thompson must also pay $8,395 in restitution to the IRS, and $50,120 in restitution to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

It’s not unusual for criminal cases to linger for years at Chicago’s federal courthouse. A federal racketeering indictment has hung over the head of Thompson’s onetime City Council colleague, Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), for more than three years. Ald. Carrie M. Austin (34th) also spent the last year under federal indictment with no resolution in sight.

That makes the pace of Thompson’s downfall all the more stunning. Gair insisted on a trial date almost immediately after Thompson’s indictment in April 2021, and a federal jury convicted Thompson of every count leveled against him 10 months later.

The case against Thompson revolved around $219,000 he received between 2011 and 2014 from Washington Federal Bank for Savings in Bridgeport. The bank was shut down in December 2017 amid allegations of massive fraud, days after its president was found dead in a bank customer’s $1 million home.

Thompson paid no interest on the loan, according to the feds. But he falsely claimed deductions for mortgage interest purportedly paid to the bank on his tax returns for the years 2013 through 2017. He also lied in early 2018 as the FDIC sought to recover the money he borrowed.

When asked after Wednesday’s hearing about the sentence, Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered sympathetic remarks that seemed a clear contrast to her harsher comments about Burke and Danny Solis, another criminally charged former City Council member who agreed to cooperate against his colleagues for the FBI.

“What I also hope doesn’t get lost in the shuffle is this is a human being with a wife and children and a family who loves him,” Lightfoot said about Thompson. “And for whatever mistakes he’s made, obviously he’s paying a pretty severe price.”

Lightfoot is in the midst of a tough re-election campaign, has a close personal relationship with former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and is hoping for support from the Daley family.

Wednesday’s sentencing hearing featured references to Beanie Baby billionaire Ty Warner, who got probation due to his charitable works despite evading $5.6 million in U.S. taxes; former Ald. Edward Vrdolyak, who nearly dodged prison more than a decade ago for similar reasons; and Mel Reynolds, the former congressman with a previous criminal record who in 2018 got six months in prison for misdemeanor tax crimes.

Gair compared Thompson’s good works to Warner’s, leaning hard on letters written on Thompson’s behalf describing “Mr. Thompson’s day-to-day grace and helping other people. Not as an alderman, as a human being.”

Prosecutors insisted Wednesday that public officials like Thompson “can and should be held to a higher standard,” but Gair argued that Thompson’s crimes “were not connected to his public office at all.”

The judge agreed, but still found prison necessary.

Thompson told the judge that the last four years “have been a nightmare” for him and his family. He insisted, “there’s not a question about any of my conduct as an elected official.”

He also acknowledged the jury’s verdict back in February. But he told the judge, “I believed, and I believe, that my conduct was not criminal.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman, Ashlee Rezin, Tim Novak

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