On Friday, it was official -- Ed Vrdolyak, a.k.a. Fast Eddie, is going to jail.
Those of you not from the Chicago area probably don't know about Fast Eddie. He's a political legend. He was never mayor of Chicago, but he might as well have been. From the 10th ward and as Cook County Democratic chairman, he led the Council Wars against Harold Washington, getting people appointed and making deals. He was known for helping a lot of people, but he helped himself and his clouted buddies even more. In forty years, he had been investigated and never once got caught. He's getting $260,000 a year from tobacco-related litigation and will receive it until 2023, although no one is saying what exactly he did to get that. He was famous for telling people to "always assume" the feds are listening in. He was a professional -- he didn't show off his status as a kingmaker, he wasn't smarmy, he didn't rub it in your face. He was simply what he was -- an opportunist, a hunter, a man who could make or break you, and there wasn't a thing you could do about it. He was made of teflon coated in Pam.
Stuart Levine was a corrupt attorney whose activities put him, to use a Chicago expression, in the trick bag. He cut a deal with the feds to give them a real scalp they could brag about -- Fast Eddie. He and Fast Eddie were pals, and he would let his guard down around him. Levine wore a wire as he negotiated with Fast Eddie over a $1.5 mil real estate kickback scheme (Fast Eddie was to get $750,000) involving the sale of some property owned by a medical school. Fast Eddie pleaded guilty in 2008. But at his sentencing hearing in 2009, federal judge Milton Shadur explained that he considered the letters in support for Fast Eddie and testifying to his character. He sentenced Fast Eddie to probation and community service.
The prosecutors lost their shit and filed an immediate appeal. Meanwhile, Fast Eddie did his sentence. He would sit at Gibson's steakhouse in Chicago (along with Carmine's and Tavern On Rush, it forms Chicago's "Viagra Triangle") and work his cell phone, raising money for the Illinois State Crime Commission, whatever that is, and it counting towards his community service.
In January, the feds agreed with the prosecutors and ordered Fast Eddie to be resentenced. The prosecution was asking for 3.5 years. US District Judge Matthew Kennelly listened as the unthinkable happened --
Fast Eddie gave up.
The usual grin, that sneaky smile, the one that said he had some other option? Gone. He declared to the judge, "This has been a very ong and difficult ordeal for everyone. I'm sorry. I made a stupid mistake. I couldn't be more sorry. It was dumb, it was stupid, and I was wrong." Us veteran Illinois political watchers were shocked. The voice was quiet. The booming "don't fuck with me" reverb was gone.
Fast Eddie got 10 months, to start serving in January. He'll be out by Christmas.
But that's not the part that hurts.
The part that hurts is that, for once, Fast Eddie wasn't fast enough.
It's not the prison sentence.
It's the scar on his pride.