ROCKFORD – Beverly Beams waited in her seat after Rita Crundwell’s sentencing hearing ended.
As people got up to leave, her eyes were fixed on a pixelated screen in a second courtroom designed to handle the overflow of people who attended Thursday’s proceeding.
“Wait, I want to see her taken away in handcuffs,” Beams said to two people who came with her.
She got her wish.
U.S. District Judge Philip G. Reinhard sentenced the former Dixon comptroller to 19 years and 7 months, nearly the 20-year maximum, and ordered her taken into custody immediately.
The 80-year-old Beams, a former Dixon resident who now lives in Tiskilwa, wanted the closure.
“Justice was served,” she said.
Mayor Jim Burke, who had asked the judge to sentence Crundwell to the maximum in a victim-impact statement he read to the court, said he was satisfied with her sentence.
“Totally mixed emotions. ... So pleased she got that sentence and that she got taken into custody,” said Burke, one of several city officials who testified. “It felt good to see those handcuffs thrown on her. On the other side of the coin, what a tragedy for what she did to the city and that she’ll be spending the next 20 years in prison.”
Lee County State’s Attorney Anna Sacco-Miller said the sentencing was in line with what she thought would happen.
“I think it was just and fair, and a step in the right direction for citizens of Lee County,” Sacco-Miller said. “After all the filings, we figured the sentencing range would be 235 to 240 (months). I was happy the judge deviated upwards for sentence calculations.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Pedersen said the hearing closed the book on Crundwell from a federal prosecution standpoint. She still faces theft charges in Lee County.
“As we said in the investigation, because of the defendant’s exclusive control of accounts, she was the only individual charged in the case,” Pedersen said.
It was never the government’s role to figure out how Crundwell’s scheme went on for 20 years without anybody detecting it, he said.
“As the judge indicated, that is not answered in this process,” Pedersen said. “As indicated, that will be addressed in the city’s pending civil lawsuit against auditors, or the pending state case against the defendant.”
The city is suing auditors CliftonLarsonAllen, Janis Card Co. LLC, and Sam Card, CPA, claiming they should have detected Crundwell’s theft.
Burke said Dixon is looking forward to moving on.
“Now that we’ve plugged the holes on this thing, we can start building ourselves back up,” the mayor said.
He did question the sincerity of Crundwell’s apology. The former comptroller apologized to the city, her family and friends.
“For 24 years, she was stealing city money, she had a lot of time to have remorse,” Burke said. “Her conscience didn’t bother her at all. She may be really sorry she did this, but she showed no remorse.”
Beams wasn’t buying it, either.
“Sorry to the city of Dixon? Or sorry she got caught?”