Former Jackson County prosecutor, county executive and Missouri Democratic Party chairman Mike Sanders is about to take a trip he would rather wish he did not have to take. His preferred destination: a federal prison camp in Yankton, S.D.
According to the Kansas City Star, Forbes magazine called the Yankton facility one of “America’s 10 cushiest prisons.” Sanders is likely to spend 18 to 24 months there. No matter how cushy, Sanders had hoped to avoid being sent away, but federal prosecutors nixed his plea for probation.
The one time “rising star of the Democratic Party” pleaded guilty in January to using campaign funds in ways that were not exactly kosher, including a refurbished wine cellar, trips to California, and, most intriguingly, “hidden, underhanded political shenanigans.”
The scheme was both straightforward and sinister. Sanders would pay Steve Hill, a quadriplegic and school friend from Winnetonka High, from campaign bank accounts that Sanders controlled for services that Hill did not perform.
Hill would keep a little of the money and kick the bulk of it back to Sanders. Hill told the Star, “I thought about it for a minute. What the hell? All right, I’m in a wheelchair, man. I’m hurting for a few bucks. And $200 or $300 would help me out.” The scheme started in 2010. Hill claims to have cashed more than $60,000 in checks made out to him.
Reportedly, Sanders had misappropriated more than $100,000 total. Sanders top aide, Calvin Williford, spent much of that money on junkets to Las Vegas. He will learn his fate shortly after Sanders learns his.
“The nature and circumstances of the offense demonstrate an egregious abuse of trust and a prolonged scheme to embezzle money,” federal prosecutors argued in their court filing. “The characteristics of the defendant show the need for a term of imprisonment.”
Kudos to the Star for using the word “Democratic” in the opening paragraph of its story. That is not the norm in contemporary American journalism.