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Former Illinois Prison Watchdog Group Executive Acquitted of Bribing Prison Officials

Former Illinois Prison Watchdog Group Executive Acquitted of Bribing Prison Officials

On May 7, 2008, a federal judge acquitted Michael J. Mahoney, former executive director of a prison watchdog organization, of involvement in the payment of $20,000 in bribes to former Illinois Department of Corrections director Donald Snyder.

The bribes were allegedly paid to Snyder from 1999 to 2002 in exchange for his directing state contracts to vendors represented by Mahoney. The vendors received millions of dollars in overpayments from the contracts. Snyder and former Cook County Undersheriff John Robinson, a former business partner of Mahoney’s and the alleged bagman in the bribery scheme, pleaded guilty and testified against Mahoney. [See: PLN, Dec. 2007, p.40].

U.S. District Court Judge James B. Zagel noted that it was “difficult to defend Mahoney, at least on moral grounds” for his “use of influence in lobbying” while he served as director of the John Howard Association, a prison reform group. However, the judge noted that “his counsel made no attempt to whitewash that part of his conduct.”

Zagel said the evidence showed at most that Mahoney suspected Robinson of engaging in bribery but did nothing about it. “I don’t think the law would require him to refuse consulting fees just because he knew it was possible someone else bribed a decision-maker,” stated Zagel.

Zagel said he totally discounted Snyder’s testimony due to his conveniently poor memory, which reflected a reluctance to own up to what he had done. Zagel also called Robinson’s testimony vague and unconvincing on key issues. Prosecutors unsuccessfully argued that Mahoney was essential to the scheme because he, and not Robinson, had the connections to Snyder. See: United States v. Mahoney, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ill.), Case No. 1:07-cr-00457 (Judgment of Acquittal, May 7, 2008).

Additional sources: Chicago Tribune, Associated Press

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Related legal case

United States v. Mahoney