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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ind. Decisions - "Bob Cantrell: No regrets, no apologies"

On Tuesday, March 31st, in federal court in Hammond, Robert Cantrell was found guilty on all charges - see ILB entry here. For background, see this ILB entry from May 31, 2008 and the linked NWI Times Bob Cantrell Trial Blog.

Today a reader has sent me this note, headed "2008 Excellence in Public Information and Education Award winner," along with a link to the column that follows:

I thought you and your readers might enjoy this link. The entire trial of Robert Cantrell in Federal Court has to be embarrassing to Judges and Attorneys alike. Essentially Judge Cantrell’s father used his political clout (and connections to her) to refer client’s to an alcohol counseling program which did not counsel people. Instead he split the fees 50/50 with his friend who owned the program. He also placed his two adult children (both lawyers) on gov’t health insurance even though they did no work. I thought this might be interesting especially considering the quote of Judge Cantrell, last year’s IJA [Indiana Judges' Assocation] winner for public information and excellence.
Here is the column, by Mike Kiesling, that appears in today's NWI Times:
As Bob Cantrell spoke to the court Tuesday during his sentencing on 11 federal felony corruption counts, I was waiting to hear one thing, but I left the courtroom without hearing it.

"I'm sorry."

It was Cantrell's one shot at contrition, to tell Lake County taxpayers he was sorry not only that he got caught with his hand in the North Township cookie jar but that he was truly apologetic for what have literally been decades of political shenanigans.

He didn't, because he's not sorry. And in a strange way I admire him more for not thinking we are stupid enough to believe he is.

I've seen hundreds of defendants at sentencings, waving Bibles and promising they will be on the road to righteousness if only the judge will give them probation, hallelujah!

Not Cantrell. He didn't get up in front of U.S. District Court Judge Rudy Lozano and lie. He said he was a proud family man, proud of his record and proud to be an American no matter what happened.

You'd think he'd just been handed the key to the city instead of one to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Although defense attorney Kevin Milner, in asking for probation, said Cantrell would never be able to hold his head high again, he was wrong.

In a perverse way, this was the Cantrell family's finest hour.

About to be sentenced to more than six years in prison, he did not plead with Lozano for mercy even though Lozano did show compassion, saying he did not want to hit Cantrell, 67, with a sentence that would mean he would die behind prison walls.

Cantrell looked at the system that he had defrauded for years and thumbed his nose at it. No groveling. No begging. No deals to sell out his friends. Stand-up guy, if you like them that way.

On the way out of court, I asked a Cantrell daughter, Julie, who is a Lake Superior Court judge, for a comment.

"How's this?" she said. "Go away. And bite me."

Because I could not figure out how to do both at the same time, I walked away and talked instead to Milner, to whom Bob had referred me when I asked him for his comment.

More from the story:

Asked why Bob had not simply said he was sorry, Milner just raised his eyebrows and shrugged.

It is people like Cantrell, who has been a political operative since the early 1960s, who have undermined what ragged faith we might have had in Lake County. Confident beyond the point of arrogance he may be, but as they say, it ain't braggin' if you can do it.

A number of current politicians are where they are thanks at least in part to his skill and experience. From Lake County Clerk Tom Philpot to Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. to County Treasurer John Petalas, debts of gratitude are owed to a varying extent.

Every time Milner would give Cantrell a gold star for something he did, Lozano would peel the star down.

Good family man, Milner said, prompting Lozano to ask why he put his adult children in legal jeopardy by enrolling them into an insurance plan for an employer they never had.

Helped a poor kid become a lawyer, Milner said, and Lozano said he later exploited that lawyer as a political pawn in a bitter judicial election.

In the final analysis, even though Milner said he will appeal, he knows the sentence his client got will more than likely allow him to get out and spend his waning years with the grandkids.

And in the smoke-filled back rooms, again making the deals.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 2, 2009 03:53 PM
Posted to Ind Fed D.Ct. Decisions