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Ex-city cop loses appeal of conviction in federal drug case

Chicago Tribune, June 22, 2005

By Todd Lighty, Chicago Tribune Staff Reporter

Ex-city cop loses appeal of conviction in federal drug case

Former Chicago police officer Joseph Miedzianowski, whom prosecutors called the most corrupt cop in the city's history, has lost his legal fight to overturn his 2001 racketeering conviction on charges that he used his badge to run a Miami-to-Chicago drug ring.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also upheld the convictions of two of Miedzianowski's co-defendants--Omar Feliciano, a drug customer of the ring, and Alina Lis, a drug courier and Miedzianowski's former mistress.

The appeals court, however, did offer Miedzianowski and the other two a sliver of hope for reduced sentences.

That hope flows from a U.S. Supreme Court decision in January that drastically changes how defendants are sentenced in federal courts.

The Supreme Court ruled that federal sentencing guidelines, which have provided judges with rigid formulas to calculate sentences, were not mandatory and that judges were not required to follow them.

In the wake of the high court's ruling, the appeals court in Chicago crafted a new approach and is applying it to appeals cases here.

The court ruled that Miedzianowski and his co-defendants were entitled to a limited remand, placing the sentencing issue back before the trial judge, U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning.

Manning, like other judges in the 7th Circuit, is being asked whether she would have handed out lower sentences if the sentencing guidelines had been advisory rather than considered mandatory.

If Manning rules she would have handed out lower sentences, Miedzianowski and the others could be granted new sentencing hearings.

Manning had sentenced Miedzianowski to life in prison and sentenced Lis and Feliciano to 30 years each. In all, 23 people were convicted in the case, but most had pleaded guilty and cooperated against Miedzianowski.

As she sentenced Miedzianowski, Manning told him that he betrayed society by dealing drugs and arming street gang members, who were part of his conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine on the streets he swore to protect.

"There comes a time in every person's life to embrace what he or she has become, to check the compass of his heart, to remember paths traveled," Manning said. "I'm afraid to discover, Mr. Miedzianowski, what you are now, sir. You used your powers to infect a trusting society."

Miedzianowski, 52, once a decorated gang crimes officer, is incarcerated in a high-security prison about 85 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Miedzianowski's appeals lawyer, Elliott Price, said the former police officer will continue to press his case.

"I certainly hope we go back before the judge and she determines this man doesn't deserve a life sentence," Price said.


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