Our Pledge To You

News

Preckwinkle: ‘race-based’ inequity in treatment of Schock, Jesse Jackson Jr.

Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., speaks to reporters at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago on Wednesday morning, March 6, 2019. He agreed to repay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes and to campaign committees in exchange for prosecutors dismissing his felony corruption case. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP) ORG XMIT: ILCHS302

Former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., speaks to reporters at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago on Wednesday morning,. He agreed to repay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes and to campaign committees in exchange for prosecutors dismissing his felony corruption case. | Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

Toni Preckwinkle on Thursday pointed to the stunning deal that likely will end the corruption case against Aaron Schock with no conviction as evidence of a double-standard in a criminal justice system that treats African-Americans more harshly than whites.

Preckwinkle was asked why she believes the former Peoria congressman was allowed to avoid prison by paying outstanding taxes and returning $67,956 to his campaign committees while former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was sentenced to 30 months in prison for misusing campaign funds.

Jackson’s ex-wife, former Ald. Sandi Jackson (7th) was sentenced to 12 months in prison. The couple was allowed to serve their terms at different times, out of deference to their two children.

Preckwinkle started by saying she doesn’t “know the particulars” of Schock’s case. Then, she let loose about the double-standard in a criminal justice system she has tried as county board president to reform.

“On the face of it, there seems to be an inequity. … If misusing campaign funds is an offense that results in jail time, it should be an offense that results in jail time for everybody who does it,” Preckwinkle said, during a taping of the WLS-AM (890) program “Connected to Chicago,” to be broadcast at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Preckwinkle laughed when asked to describe the difference between Schock and Jackson.

“There are, in our criminal justice system, historic and present disparities between how brown and black defendants with pretty much equal backgrounds are treated in the courts, as opposed to white defendants,” she said.

Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife, Sandi, arrive at federal court in Washington in 2013 for their sentencing. | Susan Walsh/AP file photo

Pressed on whether she believes Schock “got a break because he’s white,” Preckwinkle said: “I don’t know the particulars of his case. But on the face of it, there seems to be the usual disparities that we see in our criminal justice system that are race-based.”

Under questioning, Preckwinkle then pointed to what she views as another example of that same double-standard: the 81-month prison term handed down by a Cook County judge to Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the death of Laquan McDonald.

Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm — one count for every shot he fired into the body of the black teenager.

But Judge Vincent Gaughan chose to sentence Van Dyke only on the second-degree murder count. That means Van Dyke could be released after serving a little more than three years.

Newly-elected Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon have petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court for a new sentencing hearing.

“The same week that Jason Van Dyke got 81 months for murdering Laquan McDonald, a young man who was convicted of murdering Hadiya Pendleton got 84 years. He shot randomly into a crowd and shot and killed her,” Preckwinkle said.

“Jason Van Dyke was convicted by a jury of his peers of firing 16 shots, nine in the back, into Laquan McDonald. There seem to be some significant disparities there.”

Preckwinkle refused to pinpoint what she views as a fairer sentence for Van Dyke. But “particularly as it’s juxtaposed to the sentence that was given to the young man who killed Hadiya Pendleton, it seems to be extraordinarily lenient.”

As long as Schock abides by the terms of his deal with federal prosecutors, he will walk away from his public corruption case with no conviction. That’s a result nearly unheard of in Chicago.

For now, his corruption case is on hold for six months; in that time, he must meet certain conditions and remain under court supervision. If he does so, the charges will be dropped. He still must pay a $26,000 fine and repay $67,956 to his campaign committees, as well as outstanding taxes due from the years 2010 through 2015.

Under the deal, he also admitted he sought reimbursement for mileage without documentation and took tickets he had obtained at face value, for events like the World Series and the Super Bowl, and resold them for a profit.

By doing so, he made $42,375 he did not report on his federal income tax returns for the six years he spent in office. The exact amount of the tax liability still must be determined. Ironically, Schock served on the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.