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Local Editorials

OUR VIEW: Free Crundwell early? No, no, 53 million times no

Rita Crundwell, the former city comptroller and convicted felon who stole more than $53 million from the citizens of Dixon between the early 1990s and 2012, believes she deserves compassion from society, and compassionate release from a federal prison in Pekin, because of the coronavirus.

The coronavirus has caused a lot of disruptions in American society over the past several months. In no way, shape or form should it be allowed to disrupt justice in the case of the woman who perpetrated the largest municipal theft in American history.

If she hadn’t been arrested by the FBI in April 2012, Crundwell would have continued her thievery from Dixon city coffers, perhaps for years to come.

In fact, at her current age of 67, Crundwell might well have continued on as the city’s comptroller until this very day – diverting millions more tax dollars to her personal account to fund a lavish lifestyle and quarter horse empire.

Crundwell has petitioned Judge Philip Reinhard in Rockford federal court to release her because of ill health and her concern that she could contract COVID-19 and die while in custody. It should be noted that the Bureau of Prisons reports no COVID-19 cases at the Pekin facility.

She also believes her status as a model prisoner, the fact that she has learned new skills while imprisoned for the past 7 years, and the fact that she has a place to stay in the Dixon area with a brother are factors in favor of an early release from a sentence of 19 years and 7 months. Her projected release date is Oct. 29, 2029.

Crundwell claims she’ll do “anything in my power to repay the citizens of Dixon for my crime.”

Anything in her power? Then she should immediately drop her request for early release, serve her full sentence for two decades of bilking the community out of millions of dollars, and only then move on with her life.

Danny Langloss, Dixon city manager, wrote a letter on behalf of the city to ask the warden at the Pekin federal prison to keep Crundwell behind bars the rest of this decade.

Langloss wrote: “This crime was not spur of the moment or made under duress. This crime was not precipitated by financial hardship depriving her of basic human needs. This was a premeditated, carefully calculated plan fueled by greed and a desire for fame that was executed over a 20-year period.

“Rita lived a life of luxury while Dixon’s roadways crumbled, public infrastructure was neglected, public safety services were denied necessary funding, and city employees took multi-year pay freezes,” he wrote.

Langloss wrote of the financial and psychological damage Crundwell caused the people, who must live in a city forever tainted by her greed.

“She must pay her debt to society through the service of her full sentence,” he wrote.

We agree. Crundwell now wishes to manipulate the coronavirus pandemic to her advantage by turning it into an early “get out of jail” card.

Prison officials and the judiciary must not yield to this master manipulator. Let her continue to repay the aggrieved citizens of Dixon from behind bars, where she belongs.

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