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Federal Judges Find Sentencing Bias in Case Tainted by Cook County Corruption

A convicted killer’s claim that he didn’t receive a fair trial almost 40 years ago found favor in federal appellate court, where judges ruled that bias existed when the case was tried before a corrupt judge in Cook County. The decision in the US 7th Circuit will see Robert Gacho receive long-awaited post-conviction relief. His case was tried by Circuit Judge Thomas Maloney, who was found to have solicited bribes in trade for acquittals in a sting operation that uncovered widespread corruption in the Cook County court system.

Maloney sentenced Gacho and an accomplice to death for the 1982 killing of two men, despite the other man’s father paying a $10,000 bribe for the latter’s exoneration through a lawyer with ties to the judge. While the state Supreme Court later commuted Gacho’s sentence to life imprisonment, it did not redress the bias claim as the Elgin man had opted for a jury to decide his case. Gacho’s subsequent failure to show bias doomed a succession of appeals.

However, the federal court cited case law in overruling those decisions, writing that Maloney’s conviction on racketeering and extortion charges met the ‘extreme’ standard for implied bias. The panel said the judge’s criminal activities lent credence to Gacho’s habeas corpus claim because jury convictions provided cover for acquittals granted by Maloney in proceedings before the bench. Uncovered during an wide-ranging investigation of corruption in Cook County called Operation Greylord, Maloney’s crimes earned the judge a 15-year stretch behind bars following a 1993 trial. 

The DuPage County Criminal Defense Lawyers at The Chicagoland Law Firm represent clients in courts around the state, including in Cook County. Our skilled team of legal professionals draws on state and federal decisions when crafting the strategies that help clients achieve the best outcomes possible for the facts in their case. For a free consultation, contact our offices in Downers Grove and downtown Chicago. We are your best defense.