Your Case. Our Cause.

Top Federal Lawyer Michael Leonard comments in Chicago Tribune on Seventh Circuit’s Decision in Luis Arroyo Appeal

by | Jul 30, 2023 | Firm News

Top Federal Lawyer Michael Leonard comments in the Chicago Tribune on Seventh Circuit’s Decision in Luis Arroyo Appeal, Here is the link to the Chicago Tribune story and full story is below:

Appeals court upholds 57-month sentence for former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, saying ‘bribery is a premeditated crime’

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the stiff 57-month prison sentence for former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, saying the district judge was well within his bounds by placing extra emphasis on general deterrence for any future elected officials thinking about taking bribes.

“Bribery is a premeditated crime — those tempted to sell out the public have plenty of time to weigh the risks and rewards before doing so,” the nine-page ruling by the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals stated. “The district judge did not err by reasonably presuming that public officials consider the criminal sentences of other politicians, and that a longer sentence for Arroyo was necessary to deter corruption at the margins.”

The opinion by the three-judge panel, written by Judge Thomas Kirsch, also slammed the door on Arroyo’s argument that U.S. District Judge Steven Seeger erred at sentencing by deeming Arroyo’s allocution statements aggravating. Allocution statements are comments the defendant makes to a judge before sentencing.

“Nothing in the transcript suggests that the judge concluded that Arroyo’s statement itself was aggravating,” the opinion stated. “The judge did not say that Arroyo had attempted to avoid responsibility or minimize his role. To the contrary, while expressing frustration with the inconsistent positions taken in Arroyo’s filings, the judge stated that he would not hold that against Arroyo and took Arroyo at his word that he ‘accept(ed) responsibility completely.’”

Arroyo, 69, is serving his sentence at a minimum-security facility in Pensacola, Florida. He’s due to be released in May 2026, prison records show.

His attorney, Michael Leonard, said in an emailed statement Friday that while he respects the court’s ruling, he still believes the sentence imposed by Seeger “was far outside the mainstream.” “This is particularly true in light of the strong mitigating factors that were presented, including his incredible track record of service to his constituents and the public,” Leonard wrote. “We believe that, when courts stray from empirical bases for sentencing decision-making, it undermines the need for uniformity and consistency in sentencing.”

A longtime Democratic representative from Chicago, Arroyo resigned his seat shortly after he was arrested in 2019 on charges that he took bribes from politically connected business owner James Weiss in exchange for help promoting legislation beneficial to Weiss’ company, Collage LLC, which specialized in sweepstakes gaming machines.

Arroyo also admitted he enlisted the help of then-state Sen. Terry Link, arranging for Weiss to pay Link bribes to help push the legislation in the General Assembly. At the time, Link, a Vernon Hills Democrat, was secretly cooperating with the FBI. He resigned from office before pleading guilty to unrelated tax evasion charges in September 2020.

Link was wearing an FBI wire when Arroyo allegedly delivered the first of the promised $2,500 checks at a restaurant in Skokie, according to prosecutors.

“This is, this is the jackpot,” Arroyo allegedly told Link as he handed over the money.

Arroyo entered a blind guilty plea in 2021 to one count of honest services fraud, a move that came without an agreement on what sentencing recommendations should be made to the judge. The 57-month term ultimately imposed by Seeger was well above even the four years in prison recommended by prosecutors.

In his comments to the judge before sentencing, Arroyo issued a short apology, saying he “cannot begin to put into words how awful I feel.”

“I let my constituents down, I let my loved ones down who mean more than anything in life to me,” he said. “Please take into consideration all of my life actions when you impose my sentence. Allow me to go home to my family as soon as possible.”

But Seeger rejected Arroyo’s plea for probation, saying Arroyo had sold out an already corruption-weary public and committed a “frontal assault on the very idea of representative government.”

“You were a corruption superspreader,” Seeger said near the end of the nearly four-hour hearing. “The public did not get what they deserved. They voted for an honest representative, and what they got was a corrupt politician.”

Weiss, who is married to the daughter of former Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios — former state Rep. Toni Berrios — was convicted by a jury on all charges in June and is awaiting sentencing by Seeger.

[email protected]