Chicago Tribune


Thomas J. Maloney 1925-2008
Judge was convicted of rigging cases
By Trevor Jensen

Tribune reporter

October 22, 2008

Thomas J. Maloney had a reputation as a judge who was tough on both criminals and lawyers during his 13 years on the Cook County bench.

That reputation was shattered after his indictment and conviction for taking money to fix murder cases.

Mr. Maloney, 83, died Monday, Oct. 20, said his former attorney, Terence Gillespie. Mr. Maloney had been living in a nursing home and suffered from kidney failure, said Gillespie, who had no further details.

Family members could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Maloney was the first—and remains the only—Cook County judge to be convicted of rigging murder cases for cash when he was found guilty in April 1993 of taking thousands of dollars to fix three separate murder trials and a fourth felony case.

Prosecutors convinced a jury that Mr. Maloney shared in $100,000 in bribes to acquit three New York gang members accused of killing a rival in Chicago's Chinatown in 1981. He also was convicted of pocketing $10,000 to fix the double-murder trial against two gang leaders of El Rukn in 1986.

He later became suspicious that the FBI was onto the Rukn case and returned the money before convicting the Rukns and sentencing them to death, according to testimony from his trial.

The investigation that led to his conviction stemmed from the Operation Greylord probe into judicial corruption in the mid-1980s, the Operation Gambat probe into 1st Ward corruption and the investigation of the Rukn street gang.

He served 12 years and 3 months of a sentence of 15 years and 9 months. At his sentencing hearing, he declared his innocence in a two-hour oration.

Nothing had changed in March when Mr. Maloney was interviewed by the Tribune outside his Woodridge home after his release from prison to home confinement. He accused "overreaching" prosecutors and "scumbag" witnesses for his downfall.

The key witness was corrupt mob lawyer turned government informant Robert Cooley, who on Tuesday still had nothing good to say about Mr. Maloney.

A boxer in his youth, Mr. Maloney was a private attorney for 25 years and for a time shared office space with former Chicago alderman and power broker Edward Vrdolyak. He was named a judge by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1977 and remained on the bench until his retirement in 1990.

In his courtroom, Mr. Maloney presided under a framed portrait of legendary U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall and was known for imposing tough sentences and castigating gang members as "the lowest sorts of cowards." He also was tough on lawyers, demanding they be prepared before they stood before him.

For a time, he was one of six so-called "heater" judges who were assigned high-profile cases.

His indictment on bribery charges in 1991 surprised many in the Cook County Criminal Courts Building at 26th Street and California Avenue.

Jurors who convicted him after a six-week trial said his practice of buying hundreds of money orders with cash from unknown sources convinced them of his guilt.

Survivors and funeral information were not available.

ttjensen@tribune.com

Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Truth in Justice