Editorial: Another Crundwell trial; who will really pay for it

Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2013, 2:45 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus
We can understand the Dixon community's anguish and anger.

The level of betrayal committed by former comptroller Rita Crundwell in fleecing taxpayers there of more than $53 million is unprecedented. It brings to mind the arrogance and inhumanity of the infamous Bernie Madoff.

Though he took off with billions of dollars from thousands of investors in a Ponzi scheme of epic proportions, when taken in context, what Ms. Crundwell did may be even worse.

After all, the taxpayers -- her neighbors and friends -- from whom she stole so blithely didn't willingly invest their money with a charming snake who turned out to be a charlatan. They anticipated no risk in faithfully paying their tax bills and yet their losses were staggering.

We were among those who applauded U.S. District Judge Philip Reinhard for sentencing the 60-year-old embezzler and betrayer of the public trust to nearly 20 years in federal prison.

So it might be surprising to learn that we hope her lawyers are successful in their effort to get the state to drop 60 charges against the celebrated horsewoman, who gained fame thanks to her Northern Illinois town's checkbook.

Better still, we urge prosecutors not to proceed with the charges despite the urging of folks like Dixon Mayor Jim Burke who says the city wants the thief back in court. According to a report on WNIJ Radio, state prosecutors had asked city officials after her federal sentencing for input regarding the Lee County felony theft charges. If reports are correct, that any sentence handed down by a state court would run concurrently with her federal sentence, exactly who will pay for the crime?

Taxpayers will have to bear the costs of another complex and involved prosecution with little payoff. Even presuming a year or two were added to the sentence Ms. Crundwell already is serving, does it justify the costs to the state, Lee County and the citizens of Dixon? Haven't they already paid enough?

As for Ms. Crundwell, if she is like most inmates, she will suffer from intense boredom behind bars. Often they welcome court appearances for the change of scenery and the contact with people they don't usually encounter in lockup. Isn't it nice to wear civilian clothes? Fix your hair? Eat a meal that's not prepared inside? Why should taxpayers who have spent millions for her entertainment pleasure continue to treat her to more?

Unless there are burning questions that could be answered in another trial, or there is a prospect of increasing her time behind bars dramatically, there appears to be little point in dragging out the affair. We understand the desire for revenge. But it's important to pay attention who ultimately pays the price for it.


Local events heading

  Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Col. H.F. Sickless informs us that there will be new organization of troops in this state under the call for more men.
1889 -- 125 years ago: James Normoyle arrived home after graduating from West Point with honors in the class of 1889. He was to report to Fort Brady, Mich., as second lieutenant in the 23rd Infantry.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Austria Hungary declared war on Serbia. Germany and Austria refused an invitation of Sir Edward Grey to join Great Britain at a mediation conference.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Dr. William Mayo, the last of the three famous Mayo brother surgeons, died at the age of 78.
1964 -- 50 years ago: One of the biggest horse shows of the season was held yesterday at Hillandale Arena on Knoxville Road under the sponsorship of the Illowa Horsemen's Club.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Davenport is like a gigantic carnival this weekend with the Bix Arts Fest taking over 12 square blocks of the downtown area. A festive atmosphere prevailed Friday as thousands of people turned out to sample what the Arts Fest has to offer.

(More History)