A political insider who became one of the government's key witnesses in the corruption investigation of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration was sentenced Thursday to 5-1/2 years in prison. Stuart Levine pleaded guilty to money laundering and fraud charges and could have received a life sentence. But U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve sentenced the admitted swindler and longtime drug addict to the term prosecutors recommended as part of his plea deal.
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Prosecutors said he deserved substantial credit for evidence that led to Blagojevich's convictions. Blagojevich is serving a 14-year prison sentence. While he didn’t testify at either of Blagojevich’s trials, Levine did take the stand at the trials of other Blagojevich insiders, and his testimony about his own sordid past was as disturbing as it was captivating. The 66-year-old Levine described how he used his position as executor of a close friend's will to cheat its beneficiaries, including a deaf daughter, out of $2 million. Levine then sent surviving relatives a $1 million bill for his executor services. He also described using hard drugs over three decades. In the early 2000s, he said he would snort 10 "lines" of a powdered mix of crystal methamphetamine and ketamine — sometimes at binge parties he flew to by private jet.
In court, federal prosecutor Chris Niewoehner heaped praise on Levine's work with investigators, saying "Mr. Levine was a historic cooperator." He said Levine helped convict multiple political officials who deserved to be in "a hall of fame of ... corruption." Before hearing the sentence, Levine professed his "profound remorse and deep regret" for all he had done. His voice cracked as he also apologized to his children. Before handing down the sentence, St. Eve told Levine, "You are one of the most corrupt individuals this district has ever seen."
A recent prosecutors' filing reflected their mixed feelings about Levine, noting he "victimized the public, charities and universities, and individuals, with losses in the multiple millions of dollars — much of which went into Levine's pockets." But they also conceded that Levine "has been one of the most valuable cooperators (for this district) in public corruption cases over the last 30 years."
Levine has 10 weeks before surrendering himself to prison.