Gee, that was quick. It seems a short time ago that Fred Bathon, the former Madison County treasurer, was being sentenced to federal prison for a tax-buying scheme. Now presto, he’s already in a halfway house getting ready to re-enter society.
Well, the sentencing wasn’t that long ago – December 2013. And it was quick because his 30-month sentence was cut to 18 months.
Why the change? The public doesn’t know. The federal courts typically conduct business in the open, but U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton’s office filed a sealed motion in November, which the judge granted. Presumably that closed file contains an explanation for dropping a year from his sentence.
The court should unseal that file so the public can understand the leniency. It doesn’t make sense that Bathon is out while the tax buyers convicted as part of this scheme are still in prison. The scheme involved people buying delinquent taxes and getting to charge the property owners artificially high interest rates. Bathon shoulders the most blame for this crime. As an elected official he was supposed to be watching out for the public interest. Without his participation, this fraud on taxpayers could not have happened.
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Bathon perhaps got a sentence reduction because he cooperated with prosecutors, although that doesn’t make sense either because no additional people were prosecuted.
Was this some sort of political favor to Bathon? In highly political Madison County, that’s an obvious question. Unsealing the file offers the best chance of the public getting an answer.