DIXON – We call it “man on the street” in the newspaper business.
Big news happens, and the reporter goes to a cafe, walks downtown sidewalks or goes to businesses to get reaction from community members.
“Excuse me, I’m with Sauk Valley Media, what is your reaction to the Rita Crundwell news this morning that her theft charges in Lee County were dismissed?”
Typically, the news is exciting and people are willing to talk.
When it comes to the Crundwell case, however, it’s like the day Bill Murray’s character wakes up grouchy in “Groundhog Day.”
Been there. Done that. Can we please move on?
About a dozen of the 15 or so people I approached today issued me a “no comment” or just plain ignored me. Even two of the city’s commissioners offered no comment to fellow reporter David Giuliani.
Fair enough. I get it.
Exhaustion might be the best word to describe it.
This storyline has been in the news for a year now. Television and newspaper crews have walked the streets the day she was arrested, the day she was sentenced, at times during the city’s lawsuit, and again when it was revealed former City Engineer Shawn Ortgiesen used city-issued credit cards for personal use.
The city is tired of taking the blows.
“It’s time to move on,” Commissioner Dennis Considine told me.
Joyce Gibson, 79, of Dixon, was one citizen who talked to me.
Of the citizens who did share their opinion, Gibson has attended all the hearings, including Crundwell’s federal sentencing Feb. 14 in Rockford.
She was pleased with State’s Attorney Anna Sacco-Miller’s decision to dismiss local charges.
“If people understand the reason for dropping it, they shouldn’t wish it any other way,” Gibson said. “There’s no more punishment that can come to Crundwell.”
Karen Hansen, of Dixon, initially was shocked to hear the charges were dismissed, but when she heard more of the details, she understood the reasoning behind the move.
That doesn’t mean she’s satisfied.
“It just seems like a victory for her, you know?” Hansen said. “I totally understand dropping it, but to get no punishment here, it’s almost like a victory. It’s a double-edged sword in that regard. It’s a lose-lose situation.
“Maybe she can’t get more time in prison, but what if they gave her community service? I don’t even know if that’s an option, but the people of this community would love to see justice served like that.”
Dixon business owner Ken Novak said the crime is terrible, but the state’s attorney’s decision makes sense.
“[Sacco-Miller] made the right choice,” Novak said. “People might say they wanted her tried again, but what can she do if nothing is going to come out of it?”
They all agreed the real closure came when Crundwell was sentenced to federal prison for 19 years, 7 months for wire fraud and must serve at least 16 years of it.
“I was pleased with the federal judge and the sentence he gave,” Gibson said. “Like he said, he took the whole crime into consideration and bumped her up near the maximum of what she can serve.”
So maybe most of Dixon isn’t ready to go on record with it, but it sounds like the message is clear: They want Groundhog Day to be over.