Former Democratic Congressman and Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell has taken an interesting route in supporting ex-state Representative and recently admitted felon Ben Arredondo.
While prosecutors are looking to lock up Arredondo for as much as three years on a pair of mail fraud charges, Mitchell was one of a couple dozen people who submitted letters on Arredondo's behalf, as Arredondo's looking for a more lenient sentence, and Mitchell took the Abraham Lincoln route.
The letter, first noticed by the Huffington Post's Ryan J. Reilly, is mostly full of typical character-letter material -- he's sorry, he's a great guy, it's been real tough on him, yadda, yadda, yadda.
"Ben recognizes his actions resulting in criminal charges were illegal and his friends know that he accepts full responsibility," the letter says. "The shame he feels is real; he very rarely leaves his home, answers his phone or is seen in public. He regrets that his actions have tarnished the Arredondo name and that he has let down people who had believed and depended on him. He has real remorse in the disappointment that he has caused with his former students and athletes. Ben wants very much to restore his good name and reestablish his credibility."
That's probably the part where "Sincerely, Harry E. Mitchell" should be printed. Instead, Mitchell talks Lincoln.
"In the recent movie 'Lincoln' one is struck by the number of actions taken by President Lincoln that were of questionable legality but justified because they resulted in the 13th amendment of the U.S. Constitution that ended slavery," Mitchell writes. "I do believe that many of Ben's actions were more to further his legislative agenda of helping those in need than for helping himself. While his actions did result in relatively small illegitimate personal gains they also resulted in larger legitimate gains for those who needed assistance. This does not justify the actions but helps explain why a person of such standing stooped to such means."
Arredondo -- a Republican-turned-Democrat who served on the Tempe City Council for 16 years before making it into the state House of Representatives in 2010 -- was arrested for getting a few thousand dollars worth of tickets to ballgames and charity events from a fake company set up by the FBI, in exchange for helping it buy city-owned land for a real estate development.
He ended up pleading guilty to entirely unrelated charges, related to setting up a scholarship fund that sent a bunch of money to his own relatives.
For example, from 2003 to 2011, the fund paid $81,200 to Arizona State University. Of that, $39,250 was used on six of Arredondo's relatives, and the remaining $49,150 went toward the fees of 20 people not related to Arredondo.
Forget the weird Lincoln reference from Mitchell.
"While his actions did result in relatively small illegitimate personal gains they also resulted in larger legitimate gains for those who needed assistance," we'll repeat from Mitchell's letter. "This does not justify the actions but helps explain why a person of such standing stooped to such means."
Remember, those are the wise words from a former Congressman, former state Senator, the former mayor of a city that has oodles off stuff named after him, and a man whose son is currently the mayor of that city.
Either way, Arredondo's sentencing is scheduled for later this month.
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