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Final Greylord judge sentenced

CHICAGO -- Declaring there are 'two John J. McDonnells,' a federal judge Wednesday sentenced the Cook County judge to six years in prison for accepting bribes and not reporting the money on his income tax.

McDonnell, 54, is the 14th and final judge convicted and sentenced in the Operation Greylord investigation to rout corruption in the Cook County court system. McDonnell was convicted in December of tax evasion and pleaded guilty to one count of extortion for accepting payments ranging from $50 to $700 from former attorney Karl Canavan.

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McDonnell, a former Notre Dame football star, has been an unassigned judge since he was indicted in March 1988 and with Wednesday's sentence was stripped of his robes, salary and judicial pension.

In imposing sentence, U.S. District Judge James Alesia lectured McDonnell, saying he would not allow concern for McDonnell's young family to cloud his decision.

'The McDonnell family is your responsibility, not mine,' Alesia said.

McDonnell sought mercy, saying, 'I cannot tell you what a disruption this has been to my family, what it's done to my health and the welfare of my family.'

'There are two John J. McDonnells,' Alesia countered. 'First there is the J.J. McDonnell who was a public defender, assistant U.S. attorney and a judge, who presented himself as being a dedicated public servant.

'On the other hand, there was a secret J.J. McDonnell, a corrupt judge who took what he called gratuities but were bribes and extortion of other lawyers.'

Canavan allegedly paid McDonnell for the right to 'hustle' unrepresented clients in and near McDonnell's courtroom.

McDonnell in 1973 became the first judge brought up before the Illinois Courts Commission on misconduct charges resulting from an altercation. He was accused of threatening a suburban man with a gun in nightclub parking lot.

In 1980, police said McDonnell was abusive during a drunken driving arrest.

McDonnell's brother, the Rev. P. William McDonnell, accused prosecutors and investigators of harassment.

'My brother pled guilty but only after a great deal of intimidation,' he said.

McDonnell was free on bond. He was scheduled to begin serving his sentence in October.

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