Metro-East News

Appeals court denies Hamilton’s request to delay reporting to prison

Oliver Hamilton appears at federal courthouse for sentencing

Oliver Hamilton and his wife, Belynda, arrived at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis, IL for sentencing on fraud charges related to his time at East St. Louis Township supervisor. He pled guilty to charges he used a taxpayer-paid credit card
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Oliver Hamilton and his wife, Belynda, arrived at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis, IL for sentencing on fraud charges related to his time at East St. Louis Township supervisor. He pled guilty to charges he used a taxpayer-paid credit card

A federal appeals court in Chicago denied efforts by former East St. Louis Township Supervisor Oliver Hamilton to stay out of prison while he appeals his five-year sentence.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on Wednesday filed an order that denied Hamilton’s request to delay reporting to the federal Bureau of Prisons, but put his appeal on the fast track.

“This appeal shall be expedited to the extent that no extension of time shall be granted absent extraordinary circumstances,” the order stated.

Hamilton, who pleaded guilty to fraud and was sentenced to five years in federal prison, filed his appeal of the sentence April 17. He cannot appeal his conviction because he pleaded guilty.

Clyde Kuehn, his lawyer in the case, has withdrawn. John L. Tompkins, of Indianapolis, Ind., has entered to handle Hamilton’s appeal.

“Hamilton’s sole issue on appeal is the reasonableness of his sentence of imprisonment,” Tompkins wrote.

Neither Hamilton nor Tompkins could be reached for comment.

A specific date and place for Hamilton to report has not been announced publicly.

Hamilton, 63, was charged with wire fraud in November after extensive investigative reporting by the Belleville News-Democrat in 2016 that showed Hamilton spent more than $230,000 in personal purchases on a taxpayer-supported American Express account from January 2012 to June 2016. The newspaper’s investigation revealed Hamilton, who served in one of the poorest townships in the state, spent money on construction materials, tires for his construction company’s tractor, Las Vegas trips with his wife, $34 car washes, flowers and fruit arrangements for his political allies, meals at restaurants and gas for his personal vehicle. Hamilton owned and operated Hamilton Construction out of his boarding house at 1232 Cleveland Ave. in East St. Louis.

East St. Louis Township does not operate a road department or sewer district, and its only job is to help the needy in an area that has one of the highest poverty rates in Illinois.

Hamilton’s sole issue on appeal is the reasonableness of his sentence of imprisonment.

Attorney John L. Tompkins

U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan, who sentenced Hamilton, cited in a 28-page pre-sentencing memorandum the continued corruption in East St. Louis and compared the community to the devastating bombing of Dresden, Germany, in World War II. He called Hamilton’s crimes “staggering” because the money he stole was intended to help the poor.

“I can think of nothing worse than taking from the indigent,” Reagan said at sentencing.

Hamilton and his lawyer had cut a deal with federal prosecutors that called for a prison sentence of one year and a day in exchange for his guilty plea. But Reagan balked at the deal, and prosecutors and Kuehn came back with a 30-month sentence. Reagan again disagreed and sentenced Hamilton to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $40,000 in restitution.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion last week to seize $23,000 in Hamilton’s state retirement contributions to put toward the restitution.

Days before his scheduled sentencing hearing in March, Hamilton sent an email to his supporters, asking them to appear in court.

“I’m in need of your support. I am sure the judge is going to use all the lies the newspaper has printed to give me a maximum sentence,” Hamilton wrote in the email. “ ... I guess I have to pay for going against the Belleville political party. I need as many citizens of the area to show the judge the city (of East St. Louis) supports me.”

Hamilton, a Democrat, left the mainstream St. Clair County Democratic Party and joined the New Vision Democrats. He since has been ordered to give up his township post and his seat on the St. Clair County Board.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer

George Pawlaczyk: 618-239-2625, @gapawlaczyk

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