Judge Frederick Martone tells politicians - it's OK to screw the people you pretend to serve.
OK, I know this isn't about mixing government and religion.
Crooked Tempe City Councilman Ben Arredondo didn't get
arrested for mixing religion and government, although
the royal rulers of the city of Tempe routinely do mix
religion and government.
Crooked Tempe City Councilman Ben Arredondo was arrested for
accepting bribes and setting up a phoney baloney scholarship
fund that he stole $50,000 from and gave to his relatives.
But the message to the our elected officials is still the same -
if you violate the Constitution, or for that matter commit crimes
that normal people would be thrown in prison for, as an elected
official you can at the most get a slap on the wrist for any crimes
Posted on January 25, 2013 2:00 pm by Laurie Roberts
Arredondo sentence send strong message (just not the right message)
So, everybody’s favorite corrupt politician, Ol’ Honest Ben Arredondo, avoided time in the pokey.
I’m not shocked that this paragon of public service would be sentenced to hard time in front of the big screen in his family room. (“Probation isn’t a cakewalk, you know,” U.S. District Court Judge Frederick Martone told Arredondo’s supporters, who crowded the courtroom.)
I am surprised at the judge’s implication, through his comments and his choice of punishment, that Arredondo’s offense was no big deal.
In fact, Martone actually rebuked prosecutors for even pursuing the case.
“It’s cheap. It’s tawdry. It’s pathetic,” the judge said of the disgraced lawmakers’ crimes. “But it isn’t Jack the Ripper.”
True, ex-Rep. Arredondo is no mass murderer. He doesn’t strike any significant amount of terror in the hearts of the public.
Only a significant amount of mistrust, and a belief that it’s as we suspected all along, that our leaders – or at least some of our leaders — can be bought.
Because if a supposed giant among men like Ben Arredondo – longtime champion of the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden – can be purchased for a few free football, basketball and baseball tickets, what about the rest of these characters who claim to represent us?
Arredondo was snared in a 22-month sting operation, working with FBI agents who posed as real-estate developers seeking to do a deal with the city of Tempe. Prosecutors said the then-city councilman acted “as though he were on retainer” for the phony developers, arranging meetings with key city officials and leaking confidential city information.
For his efforts, he scored $5,268 in freebies, including tickets to elite sporting events.
His own words, caught on tape, suggest he would have continued as a purchased man when he joined the Legislature in 2011. “You guys will ask, you guys will have,” he told the developers/FBI agents in one 2010 meeting. “I don’t know how else to say it. We’ll be just fine because not only we’re covered at the city, we’re covered now at the state.”
Arredondo was indicted last year for bribery, fraud, extortion and lying. That’s when we learned he also had been soliciting funds for a scholarship program for nearly a decade, never mentioning to contributors that nearly a third of the money would go to his relatives.
Arredondo’s defense attorney calls the crimes “a marked aberration in the life of a man deeply committed to community, family and education.”
An aberration that lasted a decade?
That’s not an aberration. It’s a way of doing business.
Remember, Arredondo’s the guy who not only accepted Fiesta Bowl junkets, he even called up bowl officials in 2009 and brazenly asked that he and his wife be treated to a summer trip. (They were.) This guy even put in an order for 2009 Super Bowl tickets, which cost the Fiesta Bowl $4,000.
Based upon Judge Martone’s reaction, I suppose Maricopa County Bill Montgomery was wise not to waste time trying to hold Arredondo or other Fiesta Bowl offenders accountable.
Why bother if, as Martone suggested, a little bribery is no big deal?
“I wonder whether the resources of the United States government were appropriately directed over the course of two years,” the judge said, adding that the public might have been better served by going after “Wall Street bankers” who committed mortgage fraud.
And I wonder why we should have to settle for one or the other? Surely the FBI can multi task.
Just as I wonder what level of bribery is acceptable before it becomes a big deal? If $5,200 is a yawner, how about $10,000? Or $100,000?
When does ho hum become oh hell no?
Ben Arredondo used his position of public trust to broker meetings, divulge confidential information and otherwise sell himself and his city out for a lousy $5,200 worth of tickets. Then he lied about it. This, on top of misleading contributors to his scholarship fund for nearly a decade.
Prosecutors asked for 30 months in prison and a fine equal to the $49,965 in scholarships given his relatives. Instead, Arredondo got 18 months house arrest, probation and a $5,200 fine that didn’t even cover the cost of his freebies.
“His house,” Martone said, “will be his prison.”
Then Arredondo’s friends and relatives in the courtroom burst into applause.
As did, I imagine, every other corrupt public official out there, the ones who haven’t yet been caught.