Former Austin alderman sentenced to 28 months of prison time

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A former West Side alderman will report Aug. 23 to a federal prison for his part in a land development scheme.

Isaac Carothers served as the 29th Ward alderman from 1999 until February when he pleaded guilty to bribery and tax charges. Carothers, the son of an alderman who also served time in prison, was snagged in an ongoing federal investigation when he accepted a bribe from a developer in exchange for granting a zoning change.

In addition to jail time, Carothers, 55, must also undergo three years of supervised release, 200 hours of community service and pay $17,680 in restitution. U.S. Judge Robert Dow ordered Carothers to report to a prison in Yankton, South Dakota.

In court this week, Carothers admitted that he had used his influence as a public official when he accepted a bribe of $40,000 worth of renovations on his Austin home from developer Calvin Boender. In turn, Carothers granted a zoning change for a controversial land development project.

The former alderman was given a lighter sentence when he agreed to wear a wire and cooperate with an ongoing FBI investigation into how land gets developed in Chicago. Boender was convicted at trial of bribery and obstruction of justice charges based on Carothers’ testimony in March.

On Friday, Boender was sentenced this week to serve 46 months in a federal prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $100,000. Boender also must surrender Aug. 31, most likely to a federal prison in Wisconsin.

Based on federal prosecutors’ recommendation, Judge Dow granted a lighter sentence to Carothers.

“[The judge] noted that it was a serious crime by a public official,” said Randall Samborn, spokesman for the U.S. District Court’s Northern Illinois District. “He agreed with the government’s assessment and recommendations for sentencing based on [Carothers’] willingness to cooperate when confronted and for taking responsibility to cooperate.”

U.S. Assistant Attorney Brandon Fox told AustinTalks that Carothers expressed remorse in court during his sentencing on Thursday.

“Obviously, bribery is a serious offense and Mr. Carothers owned a duty to the 29th Ward and city of Chicago to act in a non-corrupt manner,” Fox said. “He breached that trust when he accepted bribes from Mr. Boender.”

The lighter sentence, Fox added, “shows what can happen when someone cooperates with the investigation as opposed to someone who obstructs justice.”

A staunch ally of Mayor Daley and chair of the City Council’s Police and Fire Committee, Carothers resigned from his aldermanic seat in February after pleading guilty to corruption charges. He follows in the footsteps of his father, William, the former 28th Ward alderman, who also served jail time after being convicted of conspiracy and extortion charges in 1983.

Carothers is required by federal law to serve at least 85 percent of his prison sentence and could be released after 21 months.

“There is no parole,” Samborn said.

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