Sending former state Rep. Luis Arroyo to prison for corruption like ‘draining Lake Michigan with a spoon,’ say lawyers arguing for probation

Sending Arroyo to prison wouldn’t have any effect on other politicians’ behavior, his lawyers argued in a sentencing memo filed Saturday.

SHARE Sending former state Rep. Luis Arroyo to prison for corruption like ‘draining Lake Michigan with a spoon,’ say lawyers arguing for probation
Former state Rep. Luis Arroyo walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in February 2020.

Former state Rep. Luis Arroyo walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after pleading not guilty to charges of bribery, Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 4, 2020.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Former state Rep. Luis Arroyo is asking for probation in his federal corruption case, arguing that imprisoning him would be “no more effective than draining Lake Michigan with a spoon” in curbing corruption.

“Mr. Arroyo is done with politics, and is leading a life away from the spotlight. He spends his days with his family and has learned his lesson,” his lawyers argued in a sentencing memo filed Saturday.

Sending Arroyo to prison wouldn’t have any effect on other politicians’ behavior, his lawyers argued.

Arroyo pleaded guilty last fall to bribery charges that stemmed from a wide-ranging federal public corruption probe in Illinois.

Former state Sen. Terry Link recorded Arroyo saying, “tell me what you need” during a 2019 meeting at a Highland Park restaurant and testified that Arroyo later gave him a check for $2,500 to support sweepstakes legislation, the Sun-Times previously revealed.

Link, who was wearing a wire for the FBI, denied being a cooperator in the case when asked by a reporter, but the latest court documents name him.

“Sen. Link testified that Mr. Arroyo spoke to him in May and July 2018 about sweepstakes, asking ‘are you okay with it,’” the filing states.

The memo goes on to say the two didn’t speak again until “Sen. Link was a cooperating witness who arranged meetings to discuss the issue and demand payments for his efforts, which occurred in a brief period beginning in August 2019.”

Link was charged with filing a false income tax return, pleaded guilty the following year and formally agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

A 15-page indictment against Arroyo in October 2020 alleged he spent roughly a year as a bought-and-paid-for member of the Illinois House of Representatives for James Weiss — a son-in-law of former Cook County assessor and Democratic chairman Joe Berrios and an owner-operator of sweepstakes gambling machines.

Weiss is alleged to have paid Arroyo at least $10,000 to push and vote for key bills, including ones having to do with unlicensed gambling or “sweepstakes” machines Weiss operated.

The latest court filing also includes parts of grand jury testimony from other officials who were asked about Arroyo’s attempts to push lawmakers to vote in favor of sweepstakes legislation.

Nicole Budzinski, who served on Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s staff in spring 2019 and is running to represent Illinois’ 13th District in Congress, testified to a grand jury that Arroyo was a sweepstakes advocate and had sought a meeting with the governor — but never got one.

Budzinski said Arroyo could’ve been seeking a meeting about “a lot of different things.”

State Sen. Tony Muñoz testified Arroyo approached him in 2019 to “arrange a meeting,” according to the documents.

State Rep. Bob Rita testified that he and Arroyo discussed legislation about sweepstakes and that Arroyo advocated for the legislation at a meeting with house members. State Rep. Michael J. Zalewski testified Arroyo was “wishy washy” about sweepstakes in a conversation they had. Neither of the representatives said they knew Arroyo had a lobbying agreement.

Budzinski, Muñoz, Rita and Zalewski didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.

Arroyo’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 18.

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