Prosecutors called him an essential witness and a key part of the takedown of the corrupt Rod Blagojevich administration. His attorney referred to him as a "changed man" whose "sense of guilt and shame overwhelmed him." The judge labeled him one of the "most corrupt politicians" in northern Illinois.
Now, that's saying something.
After years of testimony and mea culpas, Stuart Levine now knows his fate. He was sentenced to 67 months (about five and a half years) for fraud and money laundering charges, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. He faced life in prison.
His schemes and cons have run the gamut from deceiving friends to stealing from public entities and charities. At one point, he admitted to cheating the beneficiaries of a dead friend's estate -- including a deaf daughter -- out of millions. He then forwarded the beneficiaries a $1 million bill for his services.
However, Levine's information was the proverbial domino that caused others to fall, leading to the arrest and conviction of Blagojevich. Though he did not testify at the former governor's trial, he did testify at the trials of fundraiser Tony Rezko and powerbroker William Cellini. He also wore a wire during the investigation against Ed Vrdolyak, a former alderman who pled guilty to a $1.5 million bribery scheme, reports the Sun-Times.
His personal journey has brought him from a net worth of $70 million to selling electronic cigarettes at a mall kiosk while awaiting sentencing.
Levine faced up to life in prison for the charges that he pled guilty to. The deal with prosecutors called for 67 months, if the judge approved the deal. He got exactly that, and will surrender in September to begin his sentence.
And while it may seem like he got off easy, the plea bargaining system is an essential tool for investigations and law enforcement. Sure, a man that stole millions from charities, public entities, and educational institutions doesn't deserve mercy. However, without a deal in place, it is likely that Blagojevich, Rezko, Cellini, Vrdolyak, and the many other corrupt politicians and backroom figures would still be exploiting the public.
So yeah, you can call him a rat. Call him a thief. He'll hear a lot worse over the next 67 months.
- Consult a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney (FindLaw)
- Blago Insider Levine Gets 67 Months (NBC Chicago)
- Plea Bargains and Judicial Economy (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Rod Blagojevich Sentencing: Disgraced Gov. Gets 14 Years (FindLaw's Chicago Criminal Law Blog)