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

Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2013, 2:45 pm
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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 Monday, Sept. 1, the 244th day of 2014. There are 121 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: We are informed by J.H. Hull that the reason the street sprinkler was not at work yesterday settling the dust on the streets, was because one of his horses was injured.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Bonnie McGregor, a fleet-footed stallion owned by S.W. Wheelock of this community, covered himself with glory at Lexington, Ky, when he ran a mile in 2:13 1/2. The horse's value was estimated as at least $50,000.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Troops are pouring into Paris to prepare for defense of the city. The German army is reported to be only 60 miles from the capital of France.
1939 -- 75 years ago: The German army has invaded Poland in undeclared warfare. Poland has appealed to Great Britain and France for aid.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Publication of a plant newspaper, the Farmall Works News, has been launched at the Rock Island IHC factory and replaces a managerial newsletter.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Officials predict Monday's Rock Island Labor Parade will be the biggest and best ever. Last minute work continues on floats and costumes for the parade, which steps off a 9:30 a.m.

(More History)