Former top Chicago cop William Hanhardt is making a last ditch to get out of prison early.
On Dec. 15, he will turn 79.
By then, he may learn his fate.
While the Hanhardt case isn't the usual focus of this blog, recent filings in the case of the mobbed-up former Chicago chief of detectives provide some fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses in the days before Hanhardt pleaded guilty to taking part in a multimillion-dollar jewelry theft ring.
Hanhardt wants the judge to find he wasn't in his right mind when he pleaded guilty in October 2001 and that his well known attorneys at the time, including a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Thomas Sullivan, were incompetent for saying Hanhardt was mentally competent to plead guilty.
Prosecutors argue Hanhardt seemed just fine when he pleaded. He was coherent during his plea and asked questions and voiced objections, the feds say.
Hanhardt's claim of mental illness isn't a new issue.
Just days before his guilty plea, Hanhardt tried to kill himself by downing a fistful of pills, including 20 OxyContin, a powerful painkiller, according to his medical records.
Hanhardt was in the depths of depression. The day before his suicide attempt, his laywer, Sullivan, told him it would be "a blood bath" if he went to trial and the feds would "go after" his family, according to Hanhardt's court filing.
Going to trial would cost Hanhardt hundreds of thousands of dollars and could result in his wife losing the family home, his attorneys told him.
If Hanhardt were convicted - and the FBI had built a massive case against him - he knew he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Hanhardt worried he might not even make it to court.
Cops and mobsters wanted him dead.
FBI agents told his lawyers that Chicago police officers were planning to kill Hanhardt, as were two Chicago mobsters, according to his court filing.
The FBI offered to put him in witness protection, but Hanhardt refused, repeatedly.
Added to that stress were serious health problems.
For years, Hanhardt had been a heavy drinker.
A battle with cancer resulted in surgeons removing both his testicles.
In an eloquent court filing, Hanhardt's attorney, Jeffrey Steinback, is asking the judge in the case to vacate Hanhardt's plea or at least modify a ruling the judge made — that Hanhardt engaged in a violent crime when he robbed a jeweler — so Hanhardt can be moved to a prison that's closer to his family, especially his ailing, elderly wife.
A fascinating fact about Hanhardt is that to this day, even after pleading guilty to a serious crime, police officers and private citizens still praise him.
Former Chicago police detective Charles Adamson wrote that as Hanhardt "rose through the ranks of the police department, he demonstrated time and time again not only his abilities as a commanding officer, but that he was a man of consuming compassion."
Many people who know Hanhardt accept he was part of the theft ring.
But they point to his good deeds as a cop and question if he was bored in retirement and turned to crime for a little excietment. They wonder if he wasn't simply a product of his times.
Prosecutors and investigators who worked on the Hanhardt case argue he was in the Outfit's pocket for decades.
In the Family Secrets trial, Hanhardt's name came up during the testimony of Robert "Bobby the Beak" Siegel, a burglar and killer for the mob, who told jurors his mob boss in the 1960s bribed Hanhardt, so Volpe's South Side numbers racket could thrive.
Hanhardt got $1,000 to $1,200 a month in bribes and a new car every two years, Siegel recalled.
He is not expected to be released from prison until 2012.